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. The literary magazine Athenaeum is first published. Based in offices at 147 Strand, near Somerset House, the literary magazine initially struggled but began to prosper in the 1830’s, under the editorship of Charles Wentworth Dilke (later a friend of Charles Dickens). Dilke halved its price and increased its size.

January, 4, Jean Baptiste Gay, vicomte de Martignac succeeds the Comte de Villèle, as Prime Minister of France.

January, 12. During construction of the Thames Tunnel, water bursts through the tunnel wall killing six workmen.

January, 22. The Duke of Wellington succeeds Lord Goderich as Prime Minister with a reforming Tory government.

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 16th birthday.

February, 13. A public concert is held at London’s Guildhall to raise funds to help Spanish and Italian refugees who have fled to the U.K.

February, 15. The Duke of Wellington resigns from the office of Commander-in-Chief of the army. He is replaced by Lord Hill.

February, 18. A violent storm hits the southern coast of Spain. At Gibraltar, between 160-180 sailing ships are destroyed.

February, 25 (Monday). Opening of the New Royal Brunswick Theatre in Wells Street, Wellcose Square, London. The theatre collapses less than four days later.

February, 27 (Wednesday). The Marquis of Anglesea is appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.

February, 28 (Thursday). A building collapse at the New Royal Brunswick Theatre in Wells Street, Wellcose Square, London kills ten people, including four performers, during a morning rehearsal of ‘Guy Mannering‘.

February, 29 (Friday). A ship launch at the New Quay Company wharf in Manchester goes disastrously wrong, throwing almost 200 people into the river, resulting in the loss of 51 lives.

March, 17 (Sunday). Death of James Edward Smith, English botanist and entomologist (born in 1759). In 1788, Smith had founded the Linnean Society of London, a learned society dedicated to the study and dissemination of information concerning natural history, evolution, and taxonomy. He became its first President, holding the post until his death.

April, 13. During construction of the Thames Tunnel, water bursts through the tunnel wall, the third such calamity.

April, 17. The Royal Free Hospital opens, established by surgeon William Marsden as the London General Institution for the Gratuitous Care of Malignant Diseases.

April, 26. Russia declares war against Turkey.

April, 27. London Zoo opens.

May, 9. The Sacramental Test Act removes most prohibitions on nonconformists and Catholics holding public office.

May, 17. Death of Margaret Nicholson in Bethlem Hospital. She had been confined there for 42 years after being declared mad at her trial for attempting to kill King George III.

May, 24. The public is allowed to visit the Thames Tunnel for the first time.

June, 3. During the Gran Colombia–Peru War, President Simón Bolívar declares war on Peru.

June, 21. King’s College London is founded during a meeting held at London’s Freemason’s Tavern, in which the Duke of Wellington presides.

June, 23. King Miguel I of Portugal overthrows his niece Queen Maria II, prompting a civil war.

July, 3. London is hit by a severe storm, including forked lightning and thunder.

July, 5. British weekly magazine, The Spectator is founded by Robert Stephen Rintoul.

July, 5. Daniel O’Connell wins the County Clare by-election, defeating William Vesey Fitzgerald. He becomes the first Catholic returned in Ireland since the 1690’s, despite being technically ineligible to sit in the House of Commons. His election eventually forcing the government to concede Catholic emancipation with the passage of the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829.

July, 24. Large floods hit several parts of the West of England.

August, 9. Battle of Akhaltsikhe. A Turkish army of 30,000 soldiers is defeated by Russia.

August, 11. In the English county of Suffolk, William Corder is hanged at Bury St. Edmunds for the murder of Maria Marten at the Red Barn a year earlier.

September, 24. A collapse of two houses in Exeter Street off London’s Strand results in a number of deaths and injuries.

September, 27. The Queen of Portugal lands at Falmouth.

October, 1. The hall of University College in London’s Upper Gower Street opens for lectures. The building, constructed between 1827-8, was designed by William Wilkins in a Grecian style of architecture.

October, 25. St. Katharine Docks in London opens.

October, 28. Quaker forger Joseph Hunton is found guilty at the Old Bailey (see also 8 December).

November. Charles Dickens leaves Ellis and Blackmore, taking a position of clerk at the law firm of Charles Molley, although he remains with the firm for only a few months.

November, 11. During the Greek War of Independence, the London Protocol entails the creation of an autonomous Greek state under Ottoman suzerainty, encompassing the Morea and the Cyclades.

November, 12. Very dense fog envelops London.

November, 17. A public meeting is held at the London Tavern to raise funds to help Spanish refugees who have fled to the U.K.

November, 18. Four workmen are killed at London’s Theatre Royal Covent Garden after escaping gas ignites.

November, 25. A public meeting is held at the London Tavern to raise funds to help Spanish and Italian refugees who have fled to the U.K., with the Lord Mayor presiding.

December, 3. Andrew Jackson is elected President of the United States, defeating incumbent John Quincy Adams in a landslide.

December, 4. Death of the Earl of Liverpool.

December, 8. Execution of the Quaker forger Joseph Hunton, who was hanged at London’s Newgate Prison along with three other people.

December, 17. The trial of the case of the murderers and body snatchers William Burke and William Hare begins in Edinburgh.

December, 22. The young Queen of Portugal meets the King at Windsor Castle.

December, 22. Death of the English chemist and physicist William Hyde Wollaston (born in 1766).

The Dickens family moves back to lodgings above a grocer’s shop at Norfolk Street.

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.