When did the clocks go forward? British Summer Time change explained - and when they go back in 2021

The clocks go forward on the last Sunday of March each year - here’s why it happens
The UK moves from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time as the days become longer each year (Shutterstock)The UK moves from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time as the days become longer each year (Shutterstock)
The UK moves from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time as the days become longer each year (Shutterstock)

Due to the latest Covid lockdown and persistently cold, dark days, each one has seemed the same for the last few months.

Yet things are beginning to look up for many with the gradual easing of restrictions and the emergence of warmer, spring weather.

And as the days become longer each year, the clocks change and the UK moves from Greenwich Mean Time to British Summer Time.

The first clock change of the year has just occurred - here’s everything you need to know about it.

When did the clocks go forward in 2021?

The clocks always change on the last Sunday of March each year.

In 2021, it took place on Sunday 28 March at 1am.

At that time, the clocks moved forward by one hour.

That meant the time changed to 2am, so those waking up that morning lost an hour of sleep.

Some people may have moved their clocks and watches forward the night before to account for the change.

Others will have had to make no adjustment, as smartphones, which many use to keep an eye on the time, automatically update to British Summer Time.

People may continue to feel the effects of the clock change in the coming days as they adjust.

What is British Summer Time?

British Summer Time (BST) is the several months in spring and autumn when the clocks are an hour ahead.

It’s also known as Daylight Saving Time, because the clock change means there’s more daylight in the evenings and less in the mornings.

British Summer Time moves back to Greenwich Mean Time when the days become darker and shorter.

This year, the clocks go back an hour on Sunday 31 October at precisely 2am.

Until then, we have the whole of spring and summer and the lighter weather to enjoy.

Why do the clocks go forward?

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, first campaigned to change the clocks in a famous letter to the editors of the Journal of Paris in 1784.

Then, 120 years later, the concept of Daylight Saving Time, or British Summer Time, was proposed by a London builder named William Willett in the UK.

He wrote a pamphlet about how people were wasting valuable hours of daylight during the summer months while they were asleep, aptly named “The Waste of Daylight”.

Willett posited improving the health and happiness of the nation by advancing the clocks by twenty minutes on each of the four Sundays in April - then reversing them again on four Sundays in September.

As well as benefiting individuals, the builder claimed that the change would save the country £2.5million a year in the cost of producing artificial light.

The pamphlet was circulated to MPs, town councils and businesses, but it was ridiculed by many.

Even so, a Daylight Saving Bill was introduced in 1909, although it was not passed before war broke out.

It was actually Germany and Austria that first implemented a national daylight saving time during World War I in an effort to conserve fuel.

On 11pm on 30 April 1916, the German government put the clocks forward by one hour, until 1 October the same year.

Three weeks later, Britain followed suit on 21 May 1916.

The practice was then adopted by other European countries, like Belgium, France and Italy.

Willett had sadly died during the previous year, so he never saw his idea come into place.