Greenwich and Standard Time

Not until the second decade of the twentieth century, writes Alun C. Davies, was a standardised method of time-keeping established throughout Britain.

Timepieces of a fairly low level of accuracy can provide an adequate service if frequently corrected. This has been feasible only since 1924 when the regular broadcasting began of Big Ben’s chimes and the six pips of the Greenwich time signal. As a standard time applies across the whole of the British Isles, it is not necessary to make adjustments to timepieces when travelling from place to place. Both these features of modern timekeeping are relatively recent developments. The latter is less than a century old; the former only fifty years.

The need for the adoption of a standard national time gained irresistible impetus from two simultaneous developments that occurred at the end of the eighteenth and the beginning of the nineteenth century. The first was the factory system, and the second the creation of a national communications network, first by mail and passenger coach and later by railways. In pre-industrial times most craftsmen were self-employed and decided themselves when to start and finish work.

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