The following is a detailed timeline we are compiling of the movements of the life of the Victorian writer Charles Dickens during for 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.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 22nd birthday.
March, 19. The Tolpuddle Martyrs, six Dorset farm labourers, are sentenced to be transported to a penal colony for forming a trade union.
April, 7 (Monday). Henry Hughes, aged 23, is publicly executed at Horsemonger Lane Gaol. Hughes, who was convicted of assaulting a child, fell to his knees and was left in this position when he was dropped to his death.
April, 10 (Thursday). Statue of the Duke of York raised on top of the Duke of York Column monument in London’s Mall.
April, 21. Over 30,000 protestors gather at Copenhagen Fields in north London in support of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, a group of farm labourers from Dorset who had been sentenced to transportation (see March 19) to Australia for forming a trade union.
June. Original Papers, a short story is published anonymously in Bell’s Weekly Magazine.
June, 23. HMS Tartarus is launched at Pembroke Dock, the Royal Navy’s first steam-powered man-of-war.
July, 16. Lord Melbourne succeeds Earl Grey as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
August, 1. The slavery abolition act, banning slavery throughout the British Empire, comes into force.
August. Dickens becomes a reporter on The Morning Chronicle.
September, 2. Death of Thomas Telford, Scottish civil engineer, architect and stonemason, and road, bridge and canal builder, aged 77. Amongst Telford’s designs were the Menai Suspension Bridge in north Wales and St. Katharine Docks in London.
September, 8 (Monday). Pentonville massacre. Nicholas Steinberg brutally murders his partner and four infant children at 17 Southampton Street in London’s Pentonville area before taking his own life.
September, 10 (Wednesday). Inquest is held at the Vernon Arms, Pentonville into the local massacre two days earlier. Police have to be called to disperse large crowds that had gathered outside the scene of the murders.
September (?). Dickens is sent to Edinburgh to report on a political banquet given for Earl Grey, his first travel outside of south east England.
September, 15 (Monday). Dickens is present at a political banquet given for Earl Grey.
September, 18 (Thursday). Dickens report on the political banquet given for Earl Grey three days earlier appears in The Morning Chronicle.
Autumn/Winter. Meets his future wife, Catherine Hogarth.
October, 7. Birmingham Town Hall is opened.
October, 16 (Thursday). Houses of Parliament destroyed by fire.
Between the hours of six and seven on Thursday evening, a fire burst out from one of the apartments connected with the House of Lords: the burning spread with fearful rapidity, and soon consumed the Houses both of Lords and Commons, the Library of the latter, many of the Committee-rooms, the Painted Chamber, and a number of other offices. The house of Mr. Ley, Clerk of the House of Commons, and all the habitations situated between the Lords’ Journal Office and the Speaker’s house, with the greater part of the Speaker’s house itself, were burnt. The conflagration ultimately extended all round the new front buildings of the Lords, utterly consuming the rooms of the Lord Chancellor, Mr. Courtenay, and the other offices ranging round to Hayes’ Coffeehouse. Bellamy’s kitchen and rooms are destroyed. Westminster Hall is saved; and the Courts of Law have escaped, though their roofs were stripped off, and water poured in by the engines. Westminster Abbey was untouched, the wind having blown from the south-west and west.The Spectator. Saturday, 18 October 1834.
November, 14. King William IV dismisses the government of Lord Melbourne, after proposals for Church reform are made. The Duke of Wellington forms a caretaker government. This will be the last time a British sovereign chooses a Prime Minister contrary to the will of Parliament.
December. Dickens takes a lease on chambers (rooms) at Furnival’s Inn, Holborn with his younger brother Frederick, at a rent of £35 per year, paid in advance.
December, 10. Robert Peel forms his first government.
December, 29. Parliament is dissolved and a general election called.
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.