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, 16. First train services depart from London’s Paddington station.

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, 23. Charles Dickens begins writing Hard Times whilst at Tavistock House.

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, 7. Charles Dickens’s 42nd birthday.

February, 11. On Strike is published in Household Words, an account of the mill strikes following Dickens visit to Preston two weeks earlier.

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, 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, 1 (Saturday). Hard Times begins serialisation in Household Words. It is published weekly between April and August. The first installments are Chapters 1-3 (now Book 1, Chapters 13).

April, 8 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 4-5 (now Book 1, Chapters 45) published in Household Words.

April, 15 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapter 6 (now Book 1, Chapter 6) published in Household Words.

April, 22 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 7-8 (now Book 1, Chapters 78) published in Household Words.

April, 24 (Monday). Dickens presides at a birthday dinner in honour of William Shakespeare, held at the Garrick Club.

April, 29 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 9-10 (now Book 1, Chapters 910) published in Household Words.

May, 6 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 11-12 (now Book 1, Chapters 1112) published in Household Words.

May, 13 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 13-14 (now Book 1, Chapters 1314) published in Household Words.

May, 20 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 15-16 (now Book 1, Chapters 1516) published in Household Words.

May, 27 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapter 17 (now Book 2, Chapter 1) published in Household Words.

June, 3 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 18-19 (now Book 2, Chapters 23) published in Household Words.

June, 10. The Crystal Palace opens, having been dismantled and moved from Hyde Park to Sydenham.

June, 10 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 20-21 (now Book 2, Chapters 45) published in Household Words.

June, 17 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapter 22 (now Book 2, Chapter 6) published in Household Words.

June, 24 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapter 23 (now Book 2, Chapter 7) published in Household Words.

July, 1 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapter 24 (now Book 2, Chapter 8) published in Household Words.

July, 8 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 25-26 (now Book 2, Chapters 910) published in Household Words.

July, 15 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 27-28 (now Book 2, Chapters 1112) published in Household Words.

July, 22 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 29-30 (now Book 3, Chapters 12) published in Household Words.

July, 29 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 31-32 (now Book 3, Chapters 34) published in Household Words.

Summer/Autumn. Dickens and family in Boulogne, France.

August, 5 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 33-34 (now Book 3, Chapters 56) published in Household Words.

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, 12 (Saturday). Hard Times, Chapters 35-37 (now Book 3, Chapters 79), and the final parts, published in Household Words.

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, 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. During the Crimean War, a Franco-British alliance wins the first battle of the war at the Battle of the Alma.

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.

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.