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Author Topic: William Willett. Builder and Promoter of Daylight Saving Time  (Read 2224 times)

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William Willett. Builder and Promoter of Daylight Saving Time
« Reply #1 on: April 01, 2015, 20:29:35 »
William Willett. Born Farnham Surrey, 10 August 1856. Died Chislehurst Kent, 4 March 1915.

After education at the Philological School in the City of Westminster, Willett joined his father's building business, Willet Building Services. Between them they established a reputation for building quality middle-class houses in London and the South-East.
In 1890 William Willett purchased Chislehurst Mansion and the 124 acre Camden Park Estate with a view to developing it. Once he knew that his intention of setting up an estate of some 300 small houses could not go ahead due to Rights of Way, he worked with commons conservator Alexander Travers Hawes to set up a golf club with fewer but larger houses on the outskirts of the park. The golf club opened in 1894, the same year that Willett moved to Chislehurst.

Willett would ride his horse in Petts Wood, where he noticed that in the summer many houses had their blinds and shutters down well after the sun had risen. How could they be persuaded to get up?
In 1907 Willett published a pamphlet "The Waste of Daylight". In it he proposed that clocks should go forward by twenty minutes at 2am on four consecutive Sundays in April, and go back on four Sundays in September. The 'extra' eighty minutes increasing daylight recreation and saving 2.5 million in lighting costs.
Willett campaigned vigorously to win over influential people in Government and industry. He gained the support of an MP, Robert Pearce, and the then President of the Board of Trade, Winston Churchill, promoted the idea. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to get it passed into law.

During the First World War there was an urgent need to reduce energy needs and increase production. The idea of daylight saving was once again looked into. Germany had already introduced daylight saving and an emergency bill was finally passed in Britain on 17 May 1916, with the clocks advanced by one hour on the following Sunday, 21 May.

Willett did not live to see the bill passed. He died of influenza on 4 March 1915 at the age of 58. He was buried in St. Nicholas Churchyard in Chislehurst. He is commemorated in Petts Wood by a sundial set permanently to British Summer Time. The Daylight Inn in Station Square is named in his honour, as is the nearby Willett Way.
His house "The Cedars" is marked with a blue plaque.
Hometown Blues Syd Arthur


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