Friday, 25 March 2011

Give us our eleven days -

- was supposedly the slogan of people protesting against calendar reform in 1752.

In the past, the New Year had begun on 25 March, the Feast of the Annunciation, or Lady Day.

During the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, more people began to use 1 January as the New Year. The two dates were referred to respectively as Old Style (O.S.) and New Style (N.S.).

For dates in January, February and most of March the year was often written as (for example) 1738/9, to avoid confusion.

By the eighteenth century, because of adjustments that had been made on the Continent but not on this side of the Channel, the English or British calendar had fallen eleven days behind Europe.

In 1751 Parliament passed legislation stating that henceforward the year would begin on 1 January, and the calendar would skip eleven days in September 1752 in order to bring it into line with Europe. Wednesday 2 September was followed by Thursday 14 September.

It was once believed that many people thought that they had been deprived of eleven days of their lives, and that riots and demonstrations took place demanding the restoration of those days.

However it is now thought that these riots never actually happened. A painting by William Hogarth, 'An Election Entertainment', is believed to be partly responsible for starting the story. ‘Give us our eleven days’ is written on the placard on the floor at the front of the picture.

Many events, such as Christmas, continued to be celebrated on their traditional dates. Others had to be moved. It was found that when fairs and markets dealing with agricultural produce were held on the same calendar date, but in fact eleven days earlier than previously, the goods were not ready for sale.

Financial transactions still required a full year of 365 days. In 1753 therefore the financial year, which had previously begun on 25 March, started on 6 April - and has done ever since.

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