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.
January, 7 (Saturday). 198th edition of Household Words is published.
January, 14 (Saturday). 199th edition of Household Words is published.
January, 16. First train services depart from London’s Paddington station.
January, 21 (Saturday). 200th edition of Household Words is published.
January, 21. The RMS Tayleur runs aground and sinks off Lambay Island in the Irish Sea on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Australia. Of more than 650 aboard, only 280 survived.
January, 28 (Saturday). 201st edition of Household Words is published.
January, 28 (Saturday). Dickens arrives in Preston to observe the effects of the Preston strike of 1853-4, which closed the cotton industry in the town for seven months. Stays at the Old Bull, Church Street.
January, 29 (Sunday). Dickens observes a union meeting at the Temperance Hall, Preston.
January, 30 (Monday). Dickens observes an open-air workers meeting at the Orchard, Preston.
February, 4 (Saturday). 202nd edition of Household Words is published.
February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 42nd birthday.
February, 18 (Saturday). 204th edition of Household Words is published.
February, 25 (Saturday). 205th edition of Household Words is published.
March, 4 (Saturday). 206th edition of Household Words is published.
March, 11 (Saturday). 207th edition of Household Words is published.
March, 12. An alliance is formed between Britain, France and Turkey. It will lead to Britain and France joining Turkey in fighting Russia during the Crimean War.
March, 13. Death of English judge, politician and author Thomas Noon Talfourd (born in 1795). Dickens was friends with Talfourd and dedicated The Pickwick Papers to him.
March, 18 (Saturday). 208th edition of Household Words is published.
March, 25 (Saturday). 209th edition of Household Words is published.
March, 27 (Monday). Britain joins the Crimean War.
March, 28 (Tuesday). France joins the Crimean War, joining an alliance with Britain and Turkey against Russia.
March, 29 (Wednesday). A meeting is held at London’s St. Martin’s Hall in support of Preston cotton mill strikers, attended by union leaders and workmen.
April. Construction work starts on a new bridge across the River Thames at Westminster, replacing the existing bridge that opened in 1750. The work stops two years later after the contractors go bankrupt, and the project is revived in 1859, eventually opening to vehicular traffic on 24 May 1862,
For some days past workmen have beon engaged in erecting hoarding at tbe northern and southern ends of Westminster Bridge, on the west side, preparatory to commencing the erection of new Westminster Bridge. Piles have been driven into the river at the southern side for this purpose, and workshops will speedily be constructed at each end for the same object.The Standard. Thursday, 13 April 1854.
April, 1 (Saturday). 210th edition of Household Words is published. It includes the beginning of the serialisation of Hard Times , which is published weekly between April and August. The first instalments are Chapters 1-3 (now Book 1, Chapters 1–3).
April, 24 (Monday). Dickens presides at a birthday dinner in honour of William Shakespeare, held at the Garrick Club.
June, 10. The Crystal Palace opens, having been dismantled and moved from Hyde Park to Sydenham.
June, 21. During the Battle of Bomarsund in the Crimean War, Irish-born Royal Navy officer Charles Lucas throws back a live enemy shell into the sea. For his action, Lucas was immediately promoted to lieutenant by his commanding officer, and becomes the recipient of the first naval Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military bravery medal.
Summer/Autumn. Dickens and family in Boulogne, France.
August, 7 (Monday). Hard Times is published in one volume by Bradbury and Evans (originally published with the title Hard Times, for These Times). The novel is divided into three books and the 37 chapters renumbered within them.
August, 16. During the Crimean War, after a three-day bombardment Russian troops on the Baltic Sea island of Bomarsund in Åland surrender to combined French and British forces at the second Battle of Bomarsund.
August, 19. Grattan Massacre. In the United States, army soldiers kill Lakota Sioux chief Conquering Bear and in return are massacred, sparking the First Sioux War.
August, 31. Severe outbreak of cholera in the Soho area of London that goes on to kill 616 people.
September, 2. The novel North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell, begins serialisation in Household Words. Published just three weeks after the final chapters of Hard Times the story has shared themes of poverty and industrial strife set in a northern industrial town. Disputes during the publication led to a falling out between Dickens and Gaskell.
September, 7. During an outbreak of cholera in London’s Soho, local physician John Snow presents findings to officials, convincing them to remove the handle off a water pump he suspects of spreading the disease. It stops the spread and leads to evidence that cholera is spread by contaminated water.
September, 18. St. George’s Hall in Liverpool, a large a Neoclassical building containing concert halls and law courts, opens. Charles Dickens would go on to make several public appearances at the Hall.
September, 20. Battle of the Alma. During the Crimean War, an allied expeditionary force made up of French, British, and Egyptian forces, defeat Russian forces south of the Alma River in the the Crimean Peninsula..
October, 6. The great fire of Newcastle and Gateshead, a series of fires which killed 53 and injured hundreds, is ignited by a spectacular explosion.
October, 17. During the Crimean War, the Siege of Sevastopol begins.
October, 25. During the Crimean War, the Battle of Balaclava occurs. Despite being an overall a victory for the allies, the battle included the disastrous cavalry Charge of the Light Brigade.
November, 5. During the Crimean War, the Russians are defeated at the Battle of Inkerman.
November, 12. Death of Welsh-born actor Charles Kemble (born in 1775).
November, 18. Death of the naturalist Professor Edward Forbes (born in 1815).
November, 30. The SS Nile is wrecked on The Stones reef off Godrevy Head on the north Cornwall coast, with the loss of all on board.
December, 19 (Tuesday). Dickens gives a reading in the Berkshire town of Reading in aid of the Reading Literary, Scientific, acid Mechanics’ Institution. After giving a short acceptance speech, as the institutes new President, Dickens reads the whole of A Christmas Carol
December, 21 (Thursday). Whilst on a visit to William Macready at his Sherborne Hall (Dorset) home, Dickens gives a reading to help raise funds for the library of the Sherborne Literary and Scientific Institution. He reads from A Christmas Carol.
December, 27 (Wednesday). In the afternoon Charles Dickens arrives in the Yorkshire town of Bradford, ahead of a benefit reading the following day. He stays two nights at the George Hotel.
December, 28 (Thursday). Dickens gives a reading at St. George’s Hall, Bradford in aid of the Bradford Temperance Educational Institute, held at 7pm to a reported audience of 3,000 people. After a short speech, Dickens reads the whole of A Christmas Carol.
December, 29 (Friday). In the morning Dickens departs Bradford and travels back to London.
December, 30 (Saturday). Dickens presides at the annual dinner in aid of the Commercial Travellers’ School, held at the London Tavern. Gives a speech to the audience.
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.