William Willett's pamphlet
Sloane Square, London, July, 1907  


Everyone appreciates the long light evenings. Everyone laments their shrinkage as the days grow shorter, and nearly everyone has given utterance to a regret that the clear bright light of early mornings, during Spring and Summer months, is so seldom seen or used.

Nevertheless, standard time remains so fixed, 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 after the work of the day is over. Under the most favourable circumstances, there then remains only a brief spell of declining daylight in which to spend the short period of leisure at our disposal.

Now, if some of the hours of wasted sunlight could be withdrawn from the beginning and added to the end of the day, how many advantages would be gained by all, and in particular by those who spend in the open air, when light permits them to do so, whatever time they have at their command after the duties of the day have been discharged.

By a simple expedient these advantages can be secured. If we will reduce the length of four Sundays by 20 minutes, a loss of which practically no one would be conscious, we shall have 8o minutes more daylight after 6 p.m. every day during May, June, July and August, and an avenge of 45 minutes more every day during April and September.

I therefore venture to propose that at 2 a.m. on each of four Sunday mornings in April, standard time shall advance 20 minutes; and on each of four Sundays in September, shall recede 20 minutes, or in other words that for eight Sundays of 24 hours each, we shall substitute four, each 20 minutes less than 24 hours, and four each 20 minutes more than 24 hours. (Another means of arriving at approximately the same end would be to alter the clock thirty minutes on only two or three Sundays.) This is the whole cost of the scheme. We lose nothing, and gain substantially. Having made up our minds to be satisfied, on four occasions, with a Sunday of 23 hours and 40 minutes, the advantages aimed at follow automatically without any trouble whatever; everything will go on just as it does now, except that as the later hours of the day come round, they will bring more light with them. Those who have travelled by sea east or west, will remember how easily they accommodated themselves to the frequent alterations of time on board ship. They simply adjusted their watches, attended to the engagements of the day in correspondence therewith, and quickly dismissed from their minds all recollection of the alterations which had been made. If this can take place at sea day after day for several weeks without discomfort, may not a similar operation be possible on land?

It is possible, and has already taken place. For instance, in order to meet the general convenience of Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, standard time in the last mentioned colony was, in '895, advanced 20 minutes, and for a similar reason in Cape Colony standard time was, in 1892, advanced 16 minutes, and again in 1903, a further 30 minutes. If standard time can be altered for the public convenience in Australia and South Africa, may it not be altered in Great Britain?

To wind up a clock or watch requires more effort than to move the hands once a week, four times in April, and four times in September, yet no more than this is needed in order to secure during nearly five months in the year the equivalent of a whole holiday every week; for 8o minutes a day amount in a week to 9 hours and 20 minutes, which is about the average time that can advantageously be spent in exercise in the open air, on any holiday.

Now every hour so spent makes for health and strength of body and mind. With 9 hours and 20 minutes every week, of additional opportunity, the value of existing opportunities for exercise and recreation will be more than proportionately increased. The brief period of daylight now at our disposal is frequently insufficient for most forms of outdoor recreation, but the daily addition of i hour and zo minutes after 6 p.m. will multiply several times the usefulness of that which we already have. The benefits afforded by parks and open spaces will be doubled, and the nation may some day have cause to be thankful that by this means opportunities for rifle practice will have been created, which under existing conditions cannot be contemplated.

We shall not rob ourselves off sleep. On the contrary, we may sleep better, for 8o minutes more daylight in our waking hours will leave 8o minutes more darkness for our sleeping hours. By those who do not retire to rest until the early hours of the morning, land by those who sleep with open windows, the advantage of not being aroused by the sun so early, as they frequently now are, will mot be unappreciated.

One of the most powerful attractions of this scheme is that with one exception all trains will run in accordance with existing time tables. That is to say -- every train which now starts at 8 a.m. will continue to start at 8 a.m., the 9 a.m. at 9 a.m., and so on; there will be no alteration.

On Sunday at 2 a.m., the hour at which the hands of official clocks will be advanced, very few trains are running. Such as are then running will merely arrive 20 minutes late on four Sunday mornings in April only and this will be known to both passengers and officials before each journey is commenced. For Continental trains only will special time tables be required, one for April, a second for May, June, July and August, and a third for September. For any trouble in which this may involve them, Railway Companies will not only find ample compensation in reduced expenditure on artificial light on stations and in carriages, but as people are more ready to travel before than after sunset, increased passenger traffic, and consequent profit, must also accrue to them.

Nor is this feature of the project confined, to Railway Companies. Everyone,, rich and poor alike, will find their ordinary expenditure on electric light, gas, oil and candles considerably reduced for nearly six months in every year.

This consideration brings into view the National financial aspect of the scheme. Assuming the cost of artificial light, for each unit of the population, averages only, one-tenth of a penny per head, per hour, the figures with which I conclude this paper show that 210 additional available hours of daylight can be gained and at least £2,500,000 a year can be saved to the people of Great Britain and Irelaind. That is to say, by moving the hands of the clock three or four times in Spring and Autumn, we can secure not only great physical advantages, but in addition, a permanent economy equivalent to a reduction of the National Debt by at least one hundred million pounds sterling; to be followed by the honour of bringing similar blessings within easier reach of a great proportion of mankind.

For a year or two some inconvenience from the variation between time in England and other countries may be experienced, but it will be slight, for a loss of convenience in one direction will be balanced by a gain of convenience in another. Any inconvenience that may be found can exist for only half the year and will disappear when the advantages we shall have gained lead other nations to follow our example. Light is one of the great gifts of the Creator. While daylight surrounds us, cheerfulness reigns, anxieties press less heavily, and courage is bred for the struggle of life. Against our ever-besieging enemy, disease, light and fresh air act as guards in our defence, and when the conflict is close, supply us with most effective weapons with which to overcome the invader. Even the blind keenly realise the difference between daylight and darkness. They are always cheered by the former, but depressed by the latter.

Can any words be comprehensive enough to represent the cumulative effect of the 210 additional available hours of daylight (an average of 1 hour and 10 minutes every day for six months), which are within our reach, to be had not only without price, but accompanied by a large saving in current expenditure year after year?

It is futile to say these can be secured by early rising. The exceptional exercise of this virtue usually calls forth more sarcasm than admiration or imitation. Leisure must follow, not precede, work, and compulsory earlier business hours are quite unattainable. If my proposal be adopted the man who now leaves off work at 5 p.m. will take with him the light we now have at 3.40; he who leaves off at 6 o'clock, the light we now have at 4.40 and so on. Most striking is the advantage to be gained on Saturdays. Those whose half-holiday commences at 12, 1 or 2 o'clock will have at their disposal as much daylight as if it now commenced at 10.40, 11.40, or 12.40 respectively. Consider what this yearly gain of 210 hours of daylight means to succeeding generations On reaching the age of 28 (without counting anything for 6 years of childhood), a man will have gained a whole year of daylight. At 50 he will have gained 2 years, at 72, 3 years.

That so many as 210 hours of daylight are to all intents and purposes wasted every year, is a defect in our civilisation. Let England recognise and remedy it. Let us not be so faint-hearted as to hesitate to make the effort when the cost is to trifling and the reward so great. If any better method than that I have suggested can be devised let it be produced, but somehow or other let us secure these 210 hours. To obtain them everyone who wants them must do something. Out of nothing nothing comes. Let every man and woman, and every youth in particular, see to it that every voter who is willing that the scheme should be tried for six months communicates his wish to his Member of Parliament. This may be done by means of a postcard, giving the name, address and qualification of the voter. If postcards are sent in considerable numbers, there ought to be no insuperable difficulty in obtaining an Act for six months' experiment to be made.

According to Whitaker the population of Great Britain and Ireland is 43,660,000. The number of hours during which the cost of artificial light will be saved will be:

During April 23 hours
During May, June, July and August 164 hours
During September 23 hours
210 hours
210 hours at 1/10th of a penny per hour 1s. 9d.
43,660,000 at 1s. 9d £3,820,250
Deduct, to meet all possible objections, including loss of profit to producers of artificial light, 1/3rd 1,273,416

The following table shows the times at which the sun sets during the present year (1907) at Greenwich, and the times by the clock at which it would have set if the arrangement first herein proposed had been in force:
The following table shows the times at which the sun sets during the present year (1907) at Greenwich, and the times by the clock at which it would have set if the arrangement second herein proposed had been in force:
Date Existing
April 7 6.39 6.59
14 6.51 7.31
21 7.02 8.02
28 7.14 8.34
May 12 7.36 8.6
26 7.57 9.17
June 23 8.19 9.39
July 21 8.04 9.24
August 4 7.44 9.04
11 7.3! 8.51
18 7.17 8.37
25 7.03 8.23
September 1 6.48 7.48
8 6.32 7.12
15 6.17 6.37
and on September 22 6.00 6.00
Date Existing
April 14 6.1 7.21
21 7.02 8.02
28 7.14 8.44
May 12 7.36 9.06
26 7.57 9.27
June 23 8.19 9.49
July 21 8.04 9.34
August 4 7.44 9.14
11 7.31 9.01
18 7.17 8.47
25 7.03 8.33
September 1 6.48 7.48
8 6.32 7.02
and on September 15 6.17 6.17

WM. WILLETT. SLOANE SQUARE, LONDON, July, 1907. Copyright.

Source: Essay reprinted in British Time by Donald de Carle. Crosby Lockwood & Son, Ltd. London. 1946. Pages 152-157.

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