William Willetts and Daylight Saving Time

The London builder who wanted to improve 'health and happiness'

His idea came into effect one year after his death

120 years after Benjamin Franklin wrote a famous letter to the editors of the Journal of Paris , Daylight Saving Time, or Summer Time as it is known in Britain, was proposed by  William Willett (1857 - 1915), who was a London builder living in Petts Wood in Kent.

William Willett In 1907 Willett's circulated a pamphlet to many Members of Parliament, town councils, businesses and other organisations, he outlined that for nearly half the year the sun shines upon the land for several hours each day while we are asleep, and is rapidly nearing the horizon, having already passed its western limit, when we reach home from work before it is over.

His proposal was to improve health and happiness by advancing the clocks twenty minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and by reversing this idea by the same amount on four Sundays in September. He reckoned that it would not only improve health and happiness but it would save the country £2.5 million pounds, that was also taking into account the loss of earnings to the producers of artificial light.

Though the scheme was ridiculed and met with considerable opposition a Daylight Saving Bill was introduced in 1909, though it met with no success before war broke out.

National daylight saving time was first put into practice by the German government during the First World War.  In an effort to conserve fuel Germany and Austria began saving daylight at 11 p.m. on the 30th of April, 1916, by advancing the the clock one hour until October 1, 1916.

Britain (UK) began 3 weeks later, on 21 May 1916. This was immediately followed by other countries in Europe, Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, and Turkey.

Sadly, William had died the previous year so never saw his idea put into effect.

Discover more about the history of British Summer Time and explore all time-related articles.

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