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, 5. Death of the English painter and illustrator Robert Smirke (born in 1753). Smirke died at 3 Osnaburgh Terrace near London’s Regent’s Park and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

January, 30. Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine arrive in Rome, Italy.

February, 4 (Tuesday). Dickens writes to his sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth (Georgy) from Rome asking her to join him and his wife in Italy.

February, 7 (Friday). Charles Dickens’s 33rd birthday.

February, 7 (Friday). The Portland Vase is smashed by a drunken visitor in the British Museum. It takes months to repair.

February, 17 (Monday). Dickens is in Naples. Writes to Thomas Mitton.

February, 21 (Friday). Dickens, in a party of six including his wife Catherine and sister-in-law Georgina Hogarth, climb Mount Vesuvius in Italy, accompanied by six saddle-horses, an armed soldier for a guard, and twenty-two guides. The party start the asent at 4am so that Dickens can view sunrise over the Bay of Naples from half-way up.

March, 8 (Saturday). In Rome, Charles Dickens witnesses a highwayman beheaded for robbery and murder.

March, 10 (Monday). A lease is granted to play cricket on part of London’s Kennington Common, a site that will become The Oval.

March, 11 (Tuesday). In New Zealand, 700 Māori people sack the British colonial settlement of Kororāreka (later known as Russell), the start of a conflict known as the Flagstaff War.

March, 12 (Wednesday). Anuual General Meeting of the Literary Fund. Charles Dickens is elected to the committee.

March, 14 (Friday). Trial of John Tawell, for the murder of Sarah Hart by poisoning. The trial took place at Aylesbury Magistrate’s court.

March, 15 (Saturday). The first University Boat Race to use the present Putney to Mortlake course is held.

March, 28. Execution of John Tawell, for murder by poisoning, in front of the County Hall in Market Square, Aylesbury. Tawell was the first person to be arrested as the result of telecommunications technology. Charles Dickens mentions him in a letter to the Daily News, published on 28 February 1846.

April, 9. Dickens returns to Palazzo Peschiere villa in Genoa, Italy for a two-month stay.

April, 11. Trial of Thomas Henry Hocker for the murder of James de la Rue in Belsize Park, Hampstead.

April, 28 (Monday). Execution of Thomas Henry Hocker at outside Newgate, for the murder of James de la Rue. Charles Dickens mentions him in a letter to the Daily News, published on 28 February 1846.

May, 2. The Yarmouth suspension bridge at Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, collapses, killing 79 people.

May, 19. HMS Erebus and HMS Terror with 134 men, comprising John Franklin’s expedition to find the Northwest Passage, sail from Greenhithe on the Thames.

May, 20. The last fatal duel between Englishmen on English soil takes place at a remote beach near Portsmouth.

June, 9. The Dickens family depart Genoa, Italy, heading back to England, via Switzerland and Belgium.

July, 21. The Museums Act receives Royal assent, giving the town councils of larger municipal boroughs the power to establish museums.

July, 26. The passenger steamship SS Great Britain, designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, embarked on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York.

Summer. Dickens works on a production of Every Man in his Humour.

September. Irish potato famine begins. It is estimated that about a million people died during the four-year famine and led to the emigration of a further million people.

September, 18. An Anglo-French blockade of the Río de la Plata formally declared, beginning a five-year-long naval blockade on the Argentine Confederation to support the Colorado Party in the Uruguayan Civil War.

September, 20. Dickens helps stage a benefit performance of Every Man in his Humour at Miss Kelly’s Theatre in Soho.

October, 28. Dickens’s sixth child, Alfred D’Orsay Tennyson, is born.

November, 3. Dickens co-founds and is appointed first editor of a new morning paper, The Daily News.

November, 15 (Saturday). Dickens appears in a private benefit performance of Every Man in his Humour at St. James’s Theatre (London) in aid of the Sanatorium Building Fund. Prince Albert is amongst the members of high-society in attendance.

November, 15 (Saturday). Death of William Knibb, English Baptist minister and Jamaican missionary (born in 1803). Knibb worked for the abolition of slavery and helped raise money to purchase land to enable former slaves to own their own property. Just before his death, from fever, Rev. Knibb bought land which was used to create the village of Granville, Jamaica.

December, 20. The Cricket on the Hearth is published, the third of the five Dickens’s Christmas novellas.

December, 22–23. In the First Anglo-Sikh War, British forces defeat Sikhs at Battle of Ferozeshah in Punjab.

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.