Charles Dickens was born in February, the second child and first son of John Dickens and Elizabeth Barrow in Landport, then just outside Portsmouth. He was christened a month later Charles John Huffam Dickens at St. Mary’s Church, Portsea. John worked as a pay clerk in the nearby naval Dockyard. 1812 was an eventful year in British politics. Three months after Dickens was born Prime Minister Spencer Perceval was the assassinated, whilst industrial unrest continued throughout the year from the Luddites. British military forces were fighting on several fronts, including involvement in the continuing Peninsular Wars (against France) whilst a new war opened up in America.

The following is a detailed timeline we are compiling of the movements of the life of the Victorian writer Charles Dickens during each year of his life, as we come across them in letters, newspaper articles and other research. We have also included some key contemporary events that occurred in society and major news events from across the world at the time.


January. Luddites rampage through Nottinghamshire, attacking mill machines in a number of villages near Nottingham. The disturbances are so bad that military and police reinforcements have to be sent for from across the country, including Bow Street Runners from London.

January, 23 (Thursday). Luddites attack machines at Lenton near Nottingham.

January, 25 (Saturday). Luddites attack machines at Bulwell, Ruddington and Clifton in Nottinghamshire. At Bulwell protestors are fired upon by soldiers brought in from Berkshire.

January, 26 (Sunday). Luddites attack machines at Selston, Bagthorp and Basford in Nottinghamshire. In Basford the protestors overcome three soldiers who were there to protect property, detaining them during the destruction.

January, 27 (Monday). Luddites return to attack machines in Basford as well as in Cotgrave, Nottinghamshire.

February, 7. Charles Dickens born.

February, 12. Death of Andrew Cherry, Irish dramatist, songwriter, actor and theatre manager (born in 1762).

February, 27. Poet Lord Byron gives his first address as a member of the House of Lords, in defence of Luddite violence against Industrialism in his home county of Nottinghamshire.

March, 1. Birth of Augustus Pugin, architect (died in 1852).

March, 4. Dickens is christened ‘Charles John Huffam Dickens‘ at St. Mary’s Church, Portsea.

March, 15. Luddites attack wool processing factory of Frank Vickerman in West Yorkshire.

March, 20. Luddites attack the Stockport mill of William Radcliffe.

March, 20. An Act of Parliament aimed at bringing in harsh penalties against Luddites attacking machinery comes into force after the Destruction of Stocking Frames, etc. Act 1812 receives Royal assent.

April, 11. Luddites attack the Brighouse mill of William Cartwright in Yorkshire.

April, 20. Thousands of Luddites attack the Middleton mill of Emanuel Burton near Manchester.

April, 24. Luddites attack the Westhoughton Mill of Thomas Rowe in Lancashire.

May, 7. Birth of Robert Browning, poet (died in 1889).

May, 11 (Monday). Merchant John Bellingham assassinates Prime Minister Spencer Perceval in the lobby of the House of Commons. Bellingham was an unsuccessful businessman with a grievance against the Government. It remains the only instance of a British Prime Minister being assassinated.

May, 12 (Tuesday). Birth of Edward Lear, artist, illustrator and writer (died in 1888).

May, 15 (Friday). John Bellingham is tried at the Old Bailey for the assassination of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval four days earlier. He is found guilty and sentenced to execution which was carried out three days later.

May, 18 (Monday). Execution of John Bellingham, Spencer Perceval’s killer, by hanging at Newgate.

May, 25 (Monday). Felling mine disaster. A mine explosion at Felling colliery near Jarrow leaves 96 dead.

June. The Dickens family move to lodgings at 16 Hawke Street, Portsmouth.

June, 8. Robert Banks Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool (Tory) becomes Prime Minister, aged 42. He becomes the longest-serving Prime Minister since 1801.

June, 18. The War of 1812 begins between the United States and the United Kingdom.

June, 29 (Monday). Sarah Siddons, the most renowned actress of 18th century, retires from the stage at the age of 57 with a performance of Macbeth at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden.

July, 18. The Treaty of Orebro brings an end to the Anglo-Russian War and the Anglo-Swedish War.

July, 22. Battle of Salamanca. During the Peninsular War, British forces led by Arthur Wellesley, Earl of Wellington, defeat French troops near Salamanca in Spain.

August, 11. Battle of Majadahonda. During the Peninsular War, French troops engage British-Portuguese forces near Majadahonda, northwest of Madrid.

October, 5 – November, 10. A general election sees victory for the Tory Party under Robert Jenkinson, 2nd Earl of Liverpool.

November, 25. Birth of Henry Mayhew, writer (died in 1887).

December, 23. Birth of Samuel Smiles, author and reformer (died in 1904).

Missing a date? if you know of any movements not covered here we would welcome letting us know, along with a reference to any source material so we can try to fill in the gaps.