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. Part IV (4) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 11–13).

January, 14. All thirteen members of the Point of Ayr life-boat crew are drowned when it capsizes off Rhyl.

February. Part V (5) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 14–16).

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 35th birthday.

February, 22-23. Battle of Buena Vista. During the Mexican–American War, U.S. forces under General Zachary Taylor fought a much larger Mexican Army under General Antonio López de Santa Anna, near Buena Vista, a village in the Mexican state of Coahuila. Reports of the battle help Taylor to stand for President of the United States during an election campaign the following year.

February, 28. Dickens returns from Paris.

March. Part VI (6) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 17–19).

March. Charles and Catherine Dickens return to London. Rents a house at 1 Chester Place, Regents Park from March – June.

March, 5. An explosion at the Oaks Colliery at Hoyle Mill in Yorkshire kills 73 men and boys.

April. Part VII (7) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 20–22).

April, 3. Dickens withdraws Charley from King’s College School due to an outbreak of Scarlet Fever.

April, 5 (Easter Monday). The world’s first municipal park opens in Birkenhead, Merseyside, designed by Joseph Paxton (who also designed the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851).

April, 5 (Easter Monday). In London, Hibernia Wharf, on the Southwark side of London Bridge, is destroyed fire in the early hours of the morning.

April, 15. The House of Lords in the rebuilt Palace of Westminster is opened.

April, 18. Battle of Sierra Gordo/Battle of Cerro Gordo. United States troops outflank a larger Mexican army near Xalapa, Veracruz, in an engagement during the Mexican–American War (1846-1848).

April, 18. Dickens’s seventh child, Sydney Smith Haldimand, is born at Chester Place.

May. Part VIII (8) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 23–25).

May, 4 (Tuesday). Swedish singing sensation Jenny Lind, often known as the Swedish Nightingale, makes her London debut performing at Her Majesty’s Theatre in the opera Roberto Il Diavolo. Lind was one of the most highly regarded singers of the 19th century. The performance is attended by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

May, 15. Death of Daniel O’Connell. A Member of Parliament from 1828 until his death, he was nicknamed the Liberator and the Emancipator. O’Connell campaigned for Catholics to become MP’s and hold other offices. He also spoke out against the Act of Union between Britain & Ireland.

May, 24. The Dee bridge disaster. A cast iron girder bridge across the river Dee at Chester, England, designed by Robert Stephenson for the Chester and Holyhead Railway, collapses under a Shrewsbury and Chester Railway train with five fatalities.

June. Part IX (9) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 26–28).

June, 7 (Monday). Charles Dickens attends a breakfast meeting and presentation in honour of Samuel Wilderspin (1791-1866), held in Stratton Street, Piccadilly (London).

June, 8 (Tuesday). The Factory Act establishes a maximum 10-hour working day for women, and for boys aged 13–18.

June, 11 (Friday). Death of John Franklin, Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer (born in 1786).

June, 27. Sydney Smith Haldimand baptised at the church of St. Mary in Marylebone.

July. Part X (10) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 29–31).

July, 14. Dickens is at Broadstairs in Kent. Writes letters from there.

July, 28. Dickens appears at the Theatre Royal Liverpool as a performer in an amateur performance of Every Man In His Humour.

August. Part XI (11) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 32–34).

August, 2. The Commercial Travellers’ Schools charity opens a large mansion in Wanstead, east London, to look after orphaned and destitute children of commercial travellers. Charles Dickens would give readings in support of the charity in 1854 and 1859.

August, 9. The Whig Party under John Russell wins the general election.

August, 20. Battles of Contreras and Churubusco. United States troops beat Mexican forces in engagements on the outskirts of Mexico City during the Mexican–American War (1846-1848).

September. Part XII (12) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 35–38).

September, 8. Battle of Molino del Rey. United States troops beat Mexican forces defending a heavily fortified position at Molino del Rey in an engagement during the Mexican–American War (1846-1848).

September, 12-13. Battle of Chapultepec. United States troops storm a fortress at the top of the Chapultepec hill in an engagement during the Mexican–American War (1846-1848). Chapultepec, which was home to Mexico’s Military Academy, was the last major fortified point that stood in the way of the capture of Mexico City. The following morning American forces entered the city.

September, 16 (Thursday). William Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon is bought at auction by the United Shakespeare Company for preservation.

September, 26 (Sunday). Dickens writes to Mark Lemon inviting him to dinner (at the Bull in Rochester) the following Tuesday.

September, 28 (Tuesday). Dickens and guests attend a 5pm dinner at the Bull in Rochester.

October. Part XIII (13) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 39–41).

October, 18. Charles Dickens writes from his Devonshire Terrace home to Dr. Alfred Hall (on behalf of the Directors of the Glasgow Athenaeum) accepting an invitation to preside at an opening soiree of that institution.

November. Part XIV (14) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 42–45).

November. Urania Cottage opens.

November, 10 (Wednesday). The passenger ship Stephen Whitney is wrecked in thick fog off the southern coast of Ireland, killing 92 of the 110 on board, including the experienced Captain. The disaster would lead to the construction of the Fastnet Rock lighthouse.

December. Part XV (15) of Dombey and Son published (chapters 46–48).

December, 1 (Wednesday). Leeds. In the afternoon, Charles Dickens and wife Catherine arrive in Leeds by train, as guests of John Hope Shaw, President of the Leeds Mechanics’ Institution. After being shown around the town by Shaw, Dickens chairs the annual meeting of the institution, held at the Music Hall. Also in attendance is the engineer George Stephenson. Dickens gives an address to the audience [read speech]. Charles and Catherine stay over at the residence of John Hope Shaw. Also a guest of Shaw’s was the President of the Manchester Athenaeum, James Crossley.

December, 1 (Wednesday).The first time zone in the world is established on British railways using Greenwich Mean Time as the standard time for all railways. The exact time is initially hand-carried on chronometers.

December, 2 (Thursday). Charles Dickens and wife Catherine depart Leeds, taking an early train back to London.

December, 13 (Monday). In Glasgow, tickets go on sale for the opening soiree of the Glasgow Athenaeum, with Charles Dickens billed to preside at the event (see 28 December). Demand for the tickets exceeds supply and some are later resold at inflated prices.

December, 27 (Monday). Charles Dickens, and his wife Catherine, take an express train from London to Edinburgh, en-route to Glasgow. They stay over in the Scottish capital.

December, 28 (Tuesday). Charles Dickens and Catherine travel from Edinburgh to Glasgow. In the evening, Dickens presides at the opening of the Glasgow Athenaeum, giving an address to a crowd of 3,000 at the City Hall [read speech]. He is accompanied by his wife, Catherine. The couple spend the night at Possil House as guests of the Sheriff of Lanarkshire, Archibald Allison (1792-1867).

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.