Walking the ‘Willett Way’

 

Every spring, when we put our clocks and watches forward for British Summer Time, we do so with a hollow laugh. March weather is rarely summery! But last month many in the UK have seen prolonged sunshine, and in London we’ve had a heat wave. Summer arrived at last.

The ‘Daylight Inn’, Petts Wood (Bromley Libraries)

The ‘Daylight Inn’, Petts Wood (Bromley Libraries)

 

If you like walking in sunny weather, and if you’re in London, you can combine a walk with finding out more about British Summer Time. It takes in Petts Wood and Chislehurst, home of William Willett, the schemes creator, and it’s easily accessible by public transport.

 

Unveiling the Willett memorial (George Willett)

Unveiling the Willett memorial (George Willett)

 

You can view the walk instructions online or print them off. But I must warn you that it’s a while since I prepared this trail, and things might have changed. Do take care and, if in doubt, follow your common sense, not my instructions! One thing that changed since I wrote the walk is the refurbishment of Willett’s grave, now looking superb.

 

William Willett’s grave (David Rooney)

William Willett’s grave (David Rooney)

 

It fascinates me that twice a year, every year, quarter of the population of the Earth changes its clocks and watches for summer time. That is a real, physical, close engagement between billions of people and billions of timekeepers each year across the globe—all because a Victorian British house-builder and moralist thought we should get up earlier in summer.

What this shows is the sheer power of clocks and watches to change and order human behaviour—or rather, the inventive ability of people to use time to control other people. We can see it all over the place when we know what to look for. Time is a political tool.

 

‘Originator of the Daylight Saving or Summer Time Act’ (David Rooney)

‘Originator of the Daylight Saving or Summer Time Act’ (David Rooney)

 

And that is one reason why you should join the AHS. Knowledge is power, and the more we understand timekeeping, the more we can understand the control that people exert on our lives using it.

PS I’ve recently joined Twitter. If you’ve nothing better to do, you can follow me @rooneyvision.

 

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3 Responses to Walking the ‘Willett Way’

  1. Dawn Page nee Willett says:

    Thank you for this. William Willett is connected to my family by a slightly conveluted route – goes back to the mid 1700s. Always a pleasure to find snippets to keep.

  2. Pat Waters says:

    I’m undertaking some research on George William Miller, the designer of the Willett Memorial in Petts Wood. I saw the excellent photo on your site of the unveiling of the memorial and wondered about its source. It is possible that Mr Miller is amongst the gathering and if the picture comes from a publication there may be some accompanying text which would help identify him. I see that it is attributed to George Willett so it may be part of a family collection.

    I do hope that you will be able to help me in some way.

    With thanks
    Pat Waters

    • David Rooney - Council Member says:

      Hi Pat, the image I used is from a family collection, but doesn’t have any additional caption information. However, it appears to be one of a set of pictures taken at the unveiling ceremony by, I assume, a press agency photographer. Several similar ones appeared in the press, including The Times, 23 May 1927 (you might be able to get online access through your local library or they might have microfilm). But I haven’t seen Miller mentioned in any of the newspaper captions I’ve seen, as he didn’t make a speech. If you want to see the ceremony live, Pathe had their cameras there: see http://www.britishpathe.com/video/daylight-savers-memorial/query/daylight+savers+memorial. Does this help at all? I’d love to know how you get on with your research. Thanks for the comment. Best wishes, David Rooney.

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