7th August 1925. ‘Daylight Saving’.
Clocks in the spring are put forward ‘clockwise’, a term relating to the ‘sun-wise’ shadow movement of the old sun-dials.
Today in 1925 saw the Royal Assent to the Daylight Saving (Summertime) Act, which made permanent a temporary wartime measure of May 1916, needed at that time to help agricultural production in a time of food shortage.(1)
The idea of daylight saving was not new, as in the 1860s, Edward, Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, imitated his neighbour Lord Leicester by ordering all clocks at Sandringham, Norfolk, be put forward permanently by half an hour in order to economize daylight for his outdoor pursuits.
This was to be continued by his son George V and became known as Sandringham Time.
It was in 1907 that a Chelsea builder William Willett first campaigned for setting clocks ahead 80 minutes in four moves of 20 minutes, during the spring and summer and wrote a pamphlet ‘The Waste of Daylight’.
In 1908 the House of Commons rejected a bill to advance the clocks by one hour and return to GMT (standard time) in the autumn.
However a year later MPs were told that Daylight Saving might check people’s ‘physical deterioration’, which was a worry of the time. The idea didn’t catch on until the Great War, though not before Germany had beaten us to it.
The system essentially advanced clocks Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) in summer so as to extend daylight hours in the evening, clocks being put ahead in March or April and back in September or October.
Several writers complained that the Government had abolished GMT, a system in fact which had only been adopted little more than 30 years previously, and necessitated by the growing need for railway time standardisation.
During WWII clocks were advanced two hours in Double Summer Time and one hour in winter in 1940, until 1945 when it ceased at the same time as the ‘Black-Out’. However it was re-instituted in 1947 to conserve fuel at a time of severe shortage.
An experiment of the Labour Government between October 1968 and October 1971 brought in GMT+1 throughout the year, but was abandoned, as accidents went up in the morning darkness, at a time when children were going to school.
There is a memorial in Petts’ Wood in Kent, to Willett, which has a sundial set to British Summer Time (BST).
(1) The Act receiving the Royal Assent on May 17th, 1916, coming into effect on Sunday 21st May.
Ref: Image from flickr.com.