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, 8. Birth of Wilkie Collins, novelist and later a good friend of Charles Dickens (died in 1889).

February. Charles Dickens starts work at Warren’s Blacking Factory.

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 12th birthday.

February, 10. Birth of Samuel Plimsoll, politician and social reformer (died in 1898).

February, 16. First meeting of the Athenaeum, a private members’ club in London primarily for those who have attained some distinction in science, engineering, literature or the arts. Charles Dickens became a member in 1838.

February, 20. John Dickens arrested for debt and sent to the Marshalsea Prison.

March, 4. William Hillary founds the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck (from 1854 known as the Royal National Lifeboat Institution).

March, 5. The First Anglo-Burmese War begins.

March, 17. The Anglo-Dutch Treaty is signed in London, resolving disputes arising from the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1814. It divides the Malay archipelago, with the Malay Peninsula dominated by the British, while Sumatra and Java and surrounding areas are dominated by the Dutch.

April, 2. The British government buys John Julius Angerstein’s art collection for the purpose of establishing a National Gallery in London which opens to the public in his former townhouse on 10 May.

Amongst the various sources of amusement which the metropolis and its environs present, there are perhaps none which possess more attractions for the young people of the humbler walks of life that the fairs. There is such a variety of entertainment at them so much bustle, and so little restraint; the very name of a fair is the promise of mirth; its approach is the signal for enjoyment. There are few, too, in the class of society to which we have alluded, in whose minds some one or other of these scenes is not associated with interesting recollections, except the very young members; and to them merry prospects are never less interesting than pleasing retrospections. It is said that these fairs are on the decline. It may be true, so far as regards their number; but if we were allowed, to judge from the multitude of persons at Greenwich yesterday, we might safely affirm that they have not declined in attraction. From an early hour in the day, both the river and the road leading from town were covered with the votaries of fun, speeding towards the sprightly scene, in wherries, coaches, gigs, carts, and on foot. Their spirits, already sufficiently buoyant, were still farther heightened by the warm rays of the sun, and the cloudless appearance of the sky; they were, therefore, no sooner arrived, than they eagerly entered upon the various amusements of the place, according to their different tastes.

The Times. Tuesday, 20 April 1824.

May–July. King Kamehameha II of Hawaii and his Queen Consort Kamāmalu make a state visit to London, where they both die of smallpox.

May, 7. Ludwig van Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony has its world premiere in Vienna, Austria.

May, 10. During the First Burmese War, the British take Rangoon.

May, 10. The National Gallery opens to the public, originally housed in John Julius Angerstein’s former townhouse at 100 Pall Mall. It remained there until 1834, when it transferred to the present site at Trafalgar Square.

May, 28. John Dickens is released from the Marshalsea Prison, under the terms of the Insolvent Debtors’ Act, after coming to an arrangement with his creditors. The Dickens family move in with family friend Mrs. Elizabeth Roylance in the Camden Town area of London.

June, 16. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is established (later the RSPCA) after at a meeting, organised by Rev. Arthur Broome, at Old Slaughter’s Coffee House in London.

June, 20. Birth of George Edmund Street, architect, a leading practitioner of the Victorian Gothic revival and best known as the designer of the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London (died in 1881).

June, 21. The Vagrancy Act makes begging or sleeping in the street criminal offences in England for the first time.

June, 23. Examinations are held at the Royal Academy of Music, where Fanny Dickens wins two prizes.

June, 26. Birth of William Thomson, afterwards Lord Kelvin, physicist and engineer (died in 1907).

August, 5-17. Battle of Samos. During the Greek War of Independence, Greeks led by Konstantinos Kanaris defeat Ottoman and Egyptian naval forces off the island of Samos.

October, 10. Edinburgh Town Council agrees to found a municipal fire brigade, the first in Britain.

November, 15-21. The Great Fire of Edinburgh kills 13 people.

November, 23. A great storm in the English Channel breaches The Cobb at Lyme Regis and Chesil Beach, Dorset.

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.