A Monument to Summer Time

Published 25 October 2020

Oh, okay, it’s not a monument to summer time. Instead it’s a monument in Petts Wood to William Willett, an “untiring advocate” to the concept of Summer Time. You can see it if you walk the section of the London Loop from Slade Green to, err, Petts Wood.

It may seem strange to think about it, but there was once a time when we didn’t change clocks twice a year. In fact, until the 19th century people would often have to change their watches every time they went to a different town as every place had its own “definitive” definition of what the time was.

It was the railways that changed that. The need for everyone to know when their train would be leaving no matter where they were in the country eventually saw “railway time” become standard across the UK. By 1855 most of the UK had standardised on Greenwich Mean Time.

But for some, time still wasn’t right. And some started advocating the concept of “summer time” in order to stop the “wasting” of daylight.

One such person was William Willet.

His idea wasn’t like the British Summer Time we know today – where we add or remove an hour of the day. He proposed adding 80 minutes, to be done (rather confusingly) in stages on every Sunday in April. He estimated the changes would save a whopping £2.5m in lighting costs alone.

Willet started his campaign with the publication of an explanatory pamphlet in 1907, although it took until 1916 for the idea to be first implemented when the government implemented it in order to help save coal during the First World War. Willet himself never saw it finally happen as he died the previous year, but his work is remembered by the monument, which features a sundial permanently set to summer time. Oh and the fact that we’re still changing the clocks twice a year as well. Changing them on days like this.

You have remembered to do yours, haven’t you?

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