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 (early). A thick fog envelops London and the surrounding area, starting at the end of December 1813 and lasting several days into the beginning of 1814.
January, 27. Death of Philip Astley, circus promoter (born in 1742).
February. The last frost fair is held in London after the River Thames froze over during the severe winter of 1813/14. Traders set up stalls and fairground booths on the ice, selling frost fair memorabilia. Ten years later a new London Bridge allows the river to flow too quickly to freeze over, preventing further such fairs.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 2nd birthday.
February, 12. A fire destroys the Custom House in London.
March, 10. Emperor Napoleon I is defeated at the Battle of Laon in France.
April, 1. The Gas Light and Coke Company begins the world’s first permanent public gas-lighting of streets in the parish of St Margaret’s, Westminster, extending to other parts of London by 25 December.
April, 10. The Duke of Wellington defeats the French army at the Battle of Toulouse, ending the Peninsular War.
April, 22, Baptism of Alfred Allen Dickens at St. Mary’s Church, Portsea, Hampshire.
May, 30. A peace treaty between Great Britain and France is signed in Paris.
June, 22. The first cricket match is played at Lord’s Cricket Ground in St John’s Wood, London.
June, 30. Grand fete held at Burlington House to honour the return of the Duke of Wellington.
July. Walter Scott’s Waverley is published anonymously. Set during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, it is generally regarded as the first Western historical novel.
July, 1. The Duke of Wellington is greeted within the chamber of the House of Commons.
July, 3. HMS Nelson, a 120-gun Royal Navy ship, is launched at Woolwich dockyard.
August, 1. Celebrations are put on in London to mark the Peace treaty (with France) and the centenary of the accession of the House of Brunswick. Festivities, including fireworks and balloon ascents, are held in the royal parks. In Green Park, an illuminated Temple of Peace is constructed whilst in the lake of St. James’s Park (The Serpentine) mock naval displays are on view. In Hyde Park, a fair is put on that continues for 12 days.
August, 2 (Tuesday). The steeple of Kilwinning Abbey, located in Ayrshire, Scotland, collapses without injuries. It was said to date from 1140.
August, 4 (Thursday). James Mitchell brutally murders Mary Anne Welchman at 27 Mount Street in London’s Hanover Square after she rejected his advances. Mitchell flees to the country but is captured a few days later and returned to London.
August, 4 (- September, 21). Siege of Fort Erie. During the War of 1812, British troops are repulsed by American forces at Fort Erie (in the present-day Canadian province of Ontario).
August, 13. The Convention of London, a treaty between the United Kingdom and the United Provinces of the Netherlands, is signed in London. The treaty restored most of the territories in Malaya that Britain had seized in the Napoleonic Wars.
August, 14. Swedish forces conquer Norway.
August, 24. During the War of 1812, British troops burn Washington, D.C.
August, 28 (Sunday). A fire breaks out at a mustard mill in the Southwark area of London which destroys much of the surviving parts of Winchester Palace, once one of the largest and most important buildings in the city during medieval times.
September, 6. Death of Alfred Allen Dickens, aged 5 months.
September, 12. Battle of North Point. During the War of 1812, United States and British forces clash at North Point, Maryland.
September, 13. Battle of Baltimore. During the War of 1812, Fort McHenry in Baltimore is attacked by British forces.
September, 19 (Monday). James Mitchell is executed at Newgate for the murder of Mary Welchman (see 4 August). He is executed alongside Henry Hollings, convicted of the murder of his step-daughter Elizabeth Pilcher.
October, 17. London Beer Flood. A large vat of porter in Meux’s Brewery bursts, demolishing buildings and killing nine people.
November, 4. The union of Sweden and Norway is completed when the King of Sweden, Charles XIII, is also proclaimed as King of Norway.
November, 18. Death of the English civil engineer, William Jessop (born in 1745). Jessop’s engineering projects included the West India Docks, Surrey Iron Railway, Grand Canal of Ireland, Caledonian Canal, as well as jointly founding the Butterley Iron Works in Derbyshire.
December, 24. The Treaty of Ghent is signed by the United Kingdom and the United States, ending the War of 1812.
December, 27. Death of Joanna Southcott, a self-described religious prophetess from Devon, England. A “Southcottian” movement continued in various forms long after her death.
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.