This article was updated by the GB Mag content team on 19 October 2021
It’s that time of year again when the clocks go backwards for the winter.
The clocks will go backwards an hour on Sunday 31st October 2am—but why?
It’s all to do with something called daylight saving time. This is the practice of putting the clocks backwards for winter and forwards for summer to make the most of the daylight as we transition between seasons.
This concept came from the American politician and inventor Benjamin Franklin. He first had the idea while in Paris in 1784—he wrote an anonymous paper suggesting there were many monetary and social benefits of rising early. In fact, he famously published the proverb “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.”
It didn’t quite take off with the Parisians, but an Englishmen called William Willett (who happens to be Coldplay singer Chris Martin’s great-great-grandfather) heard about the concept and thought it was a good idea. Apparently in 1905, during a pre-breakfast ride across London, he observed with dismay how many people slept through a large part of a summer day. In 1907 he published a leaflet called The Waste of Daylight, encouraging people to get out of bed earlier.
When did the UK start changing our clocks for daylight saving time?
The idea of moving the clocks forwards and backwards was discussed by the British government in 1908, but many people didn’t like it, so it wasn’t made a law. In fact, it was first introduced by the Germans in 1914 during World War One.
Willett spent his life trying to convince people that it was a good idea, but it was only introduced in the UK in 1916—a year after he died.
Now, the UK’s clocks always go back by one hour on the last Sunday in October and forward by one hour on the last Sunday in March.