British Summer Time Begins

Good news everyone, the warmer weather and lighter evenings will soon make a return, and this March, the clocks will change, as we enter British Summer Time (BST). 

As part of Daylight Saving Time, the clocks will go forward, meaning we lose an hour in bed and wake up feeling a little sleepier than usual. On the plus side, we’ll relish in the longer daylight hours and have an excuse for arriving late all day.

But when and why do we lose an hour each spring – and should we get rid of the practice altogether? Here is everything you need to know about springing forward.

When do the clocks change in 2020?

On Sunday, March 29, we will move to British Summer Time (BST) – at 1am, to be precise. The clocks will move forward an hour (remember the Americanised mantra: spring forward, fall back).

We will then remain under BST until Sunday, October 25, when the clocks go back an hour and we return to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

What is Daylight Saving Time?

Daylight Saving Time, or summer time, is the practice of advancing clocks during summer months by one hour so that in the evening daylight is experienced an hour longer, and normal sunrise times are sacrificed.

Typically, regions with summer time adjust clocks forward one hour close to the start of spring and adjust them backward in the autumn to standard time.

In the UK, the maximum 16 hours and 38 minutes of sunlight occurs on the longest day in June (the summer solstice) and dwindles to just seven hours and 49 minutes six months later in December (the winter solstice).

Studies have shown it leads to a general sense of wellbeing, cognition and fewer accidents on the roads.

Whose idea was it – and why do the clocks change?

During the nine years he spent as American ambassador to France, American inventor and politician Benjamin Franklin wrote an essay titled An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light to the editor of The Journal of Paris in 1784.

In the essay, he suggested that Parisians could reduce candle usage by getting people out of bed earlier in the morning, making use of the natural morning light instead.

More than one hundred years later, in 1895, an entomologist in New Zealand, George Vernon Hudson, outlined a daylight saving scheme to the Wellington Philosophical Society, which was trialled successfully in the country in 1927.

William Willett was the man who introduced the idea of Daylight Saving Time in Britain in 1907. He was keen to prevent people from wasting vital hours of light during summer mornings. Willett published ‘The Waste of Daylight’ in a bid to get people out of bed earlier by changing the nation’s clocks.

Supporters for the proposal argued that such a scheme could reduce domestic coal consumption and increase the supplies available for manufacturing and the war effort during the First World War.

Willett spent the rest of his life trying to convince people his scheme was a good one. Sadly, he died a year before Germany adopted his clock-changing plan on April 30, 1916, when the clocks were set forward at 11pm. Britain followed suit a month later on May 21.

By then Britain and Germany had been fighting each other in the First World War (1914-18), and a system that could take pressure off the economy was worth trying.

The Summer Time Act of 1916 was quickly passed by Parliament and the first day of British Summer Time, 21 May 1916, was widely reported in the press.

Interesting Fact – Back then the hands on many of the clocks could not be turned back without breaking the mechanism. Instead, owners had to put the clock forward by 11 hours when Summer Time came to an end.

The Home Office put out special posters telling people how to reset their clocks to GMT, and national newspapers also gave advice.

Even though Germany is commonly known as the first country to implement Daylight Saving Time, Thunder Bay in Ontario, Canada had implemented it in 1908.

Willett is commemorated for his efforts by a memorial sundial in nearby Petts Wood, set permanently to Daylight Saving Time. The Daylight Inn in Petts Wood is named in his honour and there’s a road there called Willett Way.

A wind-up for some…

Spare a thought for the staff of the Royal Collection. They spend over 50 hours adjusting over 1,000 clocks spread across the official residences of The Queen.

Following months of planning, staff at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and the Palace of Holyrood house in Edinburgh start work in the early hours of the morning to ensure that the time is set accurately.

There are 379 timepieces at Windsor Castle, 500 at Buckingham Palace and 80 at the Palace of Holyrood house including organ clocks, astronomical clocks, musical clocks and mechanical clocks.

Clock changing can also be a time-consuming task for others too, with museums, historical palaces and antique clock sellers having to adjust their large collections on March 29.

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