British Summer Time at Petts Wood and Hawkwood

Stone sundial standing in a glade, marks British Summer Time

William Willett was a prominent Edwardian builder who lived in Chislehurst. A keen supporter of outdoor activities, he noticed that during the summer, people were still sleeping when the sun had risen.

Willett began to think about changing the nation’s clocks and published his idea in a pamphlet called ‘A waste of daylight’. Although William died before his ideas were adopted, it was his pamphlet that paved the way for British Summer Time.

 

Convincing the nation

A successful businessman, Willett was able to sponsor his ideas and began to investigate how changing the nation’s clocks at different times of the year would create more usable daylight.
 
Willett published ‘A Waste of Daylight’ in 1907 and in it suggested advancing time in four phases throughout the year. Although his ideas caught the interest of MPs such as Robert Pearce and Winston Churchill, the overly technical way in which he suggested the change put many people off.

 

World war

The outbreak of the war in 1914 put a huge strain on the national economy and the government began to look at ways to increase productivity. It finally adopted daylight saving time in 1916, believing it would improve output in factories and reduce the amount of coal used for lighting.
 
Sadly William had passed away only a year before and never saw his ideas come into practice.

 

The Willett memorial

In 1925, London woodland was under threat of development. A block of land was purchased in Petts Wood by public subscription, following a local campaign. The woodland was then donated to the National Trust to look after for the nation.
 
Named the Willett memorial wood in honour of William and his ideas, at its heart is a commemorative sundial, permanently set to British Summer Time.