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.


(?) Charles Dickens is admitted to the gallery of the House of Commons as a reporter.

January. Joseph Livesey begins publishing The Moral Reformer in Preston, Lancashire, the first publication of the temperance movement in England.

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 19th birthday.

February, 14. Death of Henry Maudslay, English engineer and considered a founding father of machine tool technology. His inventions were an important foundation for the Industrial Revolution (born 1771).

March, 29 (Tuesday). Exeter Hall opens in London’s Strand, designed to hold meetings for religious, benevolent and scientific institutions. A crowd of 3,500 people attend the celebrations.

April, 12 (Tuesday). Broughton Bridge collapse. An iron chain suspension bridge spanning the River Irwell between Broughton and Pendleton near Manchester, collapsed into the river when around 70 soldiers, marching in step, were crossing it. Many fell into the water with several injured. The incident led to the British Army ordering that troops should “break step” when crossing a bridge.

April, 27. Ending of the Anglo-Ashanti war.

May – June. Merthyr Rising in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales.

May, 30. The 1831 census takes place across the United Kingdom.

June, 8. Dean Forest Riots. Freeminers in the Forest of Dean break down enclosures in the Forest.

June, 8. Death of Sarah Siddons (born in 1755). Siddons was the most renowned actress of 18th century Britain, famous for her portrayal of tragic characters, most notably Lady Macbeth. Charles Dickens refers to her in his 1835 sketch Private Theatres.

June, 15. Funeral of celebrity actress Sarah Siddons held at Saint Mary’s Cemetery at Paddington, London. Over 5,000 people were reported to have attended the event.

June, 29 (Wednesday). The first temperance meeting was held at Exeter Hall.

August, 1 (Monday). The new London Bridge is officially opened.

August, 17. The paddle steamer Rothsay Castle is wrecked at the eastern end of the Menai Strait with the loss of 93 lives.

August, 29. Michael Faraday demonstrates electromagnetic induction.

September, 8. Coronation of King William IV in Westminster Abbey.

September, 15. The foundation stone of Charing Cross Hospital in London’s Strand is laid by the Duke of Sussex. The hospital, constructed between 1831-2, was designed by Decimus Burton in a Grecian style of architecture.

September, 22. The House of Commons passes the Reform Bill. However the House of Lords votes against the reforms to give Britain’s industrial cities and towns better representation leading to subsequent rioting.

October, 9 (Sunday). Nottingham Riots. Thousands of persons assemble after dark in the streets of Nottingham and begin attacking property belonging to anti-reformers.

October, 10 (Monday). Nottingham Riots. Rioters continue to attack property in Nottingham. A mob attacks Colwick Hall. Nottingham Castle, owned by the Duke of Newcastle who opposed parliamentary reforms, is stormed and burned to the ground.

October, 11 (Tuesday). Nottingham Riots. Rioters continue to attack property in Nottingham, destroying a silk mill in Beeston. Troops are called out who restore peace to the area.

October, 12 (Wednesday). London Riots. Hundreds of people riot in central London over the issue of parliamentary reform.

October, 29-31. Bristol Riots. Hundreds of people rioted in Bristol city centre over the issue of parliamentary reform. The disturbances, which lasted for three days, was crushed by troops with several people killed.

November. John Dickens declares himself an insolvent debtor for the second time.

December, 27. Charles Darwin embarks on his historic voyage aboard HMS Beagle from Plymouth.

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.