Save daylight: William Willett’s BST

It’s time for time change – British Summer Time (BST) changes to Greenwich Mean Time every last October Sunday. This time adjustment by one hour twice a year has been going on since 1916. Builder William Willett’s idea was to save hours of daylight. It went into reality a year after he died in 1915.

Willet was riding his horse and noticed closed window shutters well after sunrise. This gave him the idea of DST – Daylight Saving Time. His pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight” written in 1907 got several followers and even supporters, like young politician Winston Churchill. Parliament had long debates over the matter but made no proper action.

Willett with daughter Gertrude – source: Chislehurst Society

In 1916, there was great need to reduce energy-use (mostly fuel) and support war production with the resources saved. As a result of this, an emergency law was passed to change the clocks twice a year.  “Summer Time Act” was, however, only passed in 1925.


GR8 to Know
Willett’s great-great-grandson Christ Martin from rock band Coldplay refers to his great-great-grandpa’s idea in the beginning lines of Coldplay song ‘Clocks’. Here it goes:
“The lights go out and I can’t be saved…”

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