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28 October 2014

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You are in: Jersey > Living Here > Time > A History of Time (Brief!)



A History of Time (Brief!)

Starting from a time when 'o'clock' wasn't needed, to the railways coming along, when consistant and accurate time most certainly was.

Time Fact

The oldest known sundial was constructed in Egypt around 1500BC

The Romans built the sundial we know today, and they even made portable ones for travelling!

If you think about it, what did it matter whether it was 9 o'clock in the morning, or half three in the afternoon?

Certainly, the world seemed to cope admirably when all that was available was the sundial, a simple tool that cast the shadow of the sun onto a dial to show the apparent time of day.

Sundials go back to around 1500BC, but remarkably, when clocks came into use, sundials continued to be erected, because they could at least be relied upon to keep accurate time, and could be used when the clock decided to stop.

Accuracy to within a second

Mechanical clocks first started appearing in the 14th century, and were weight-driven, with the invention of spring-powered clocks around 1500 proving a great advance.

Refinements followed over the next couple of centuries, and by the 1700s, accuracy of within a second a day was possible.

But even if clocks were getting that accurate, there was no standard time as such. What may have been seven in the morning in one location was not neccesarily seven in the morning at another.

Standard Time

It was the good old train (at the time when they all, astonishingly, seemed to run on time) that paved the way for local time systems to be replaced by one standard time.

After all, if an express train left King's Cross at 8am, that meant nothing to someone at the other end of the line, say Doncaster, where there was a different time in operation.

So it was that in 1847, a standard time, based on Greenwich time, was adopted throughout the land, made legal by an Act of Parliament in 1880.

Perhaps the most endearing example of this era was the clock at Carnforth station in Lancashire, used in the smash-hit 1946 film 'Brief Encounter'.

The future

Of course, clocks have kept getting more and more accurate since then, and if you want to know more about quartz clocks, atomic clocks and more, click on one of our links.

last updated: 26/10/07

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