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, 2 (Monday). Charles Dickens gives a reading, the third of three over the Christmas period held at St. Martin’s Hall, in London’s Covent Garden area. Dickens reads from A Christmas Carol and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers, held at 8pm.

January, 25. HMS Prince of Wales, a 121-gun screw-propelled first-rate ship of the line is launched at Portsmouth Dockyard.

February. A Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom recommends the erection of defences around the coast of the United Kingdom (known as the Palmerston Forts).

February, 7. Charles Dickens’s 48th birthday.

March. Charles Dickens visits Liverpool. Visits the Liverpool Workhouse and sees the conditions of soldiers in hospital.

March. The Food and Drink Act, 1860 prohibits the adulteration of certain foodstuffs.

March, 17. The First Taranaki War breaks out between Māori landowners and British colonists in New Zealand following a property dispute.

April, 17. One of the last major bare-knuckle boxing matches in England, between Tom Sayers and the American John C. Heenan takes place at Farnborough in Hampshire but police intervene and break up the event.

May, 12. Death of the architect Charles Barry (born in 1795).

June, 30. The Oxford evolution debate takes place at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, seven months after the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

July, 9. The Nightingale Training School and Home for Nurses, the first nursing school based on the ideas of Florence Nightingale, is opened at St Thomas’ Hospital in London.

July, 17.  Dickens’s daughter, Katie, marries Charles Allston Collins.

July, 27. Just ten days after Katie’s marriage Dickens’s brother, Alfred, dies at the Mosley Arms Inn in Manchester, from pleurisy.

July, 29. Death of the physician Thomas Addison (born in 1793).

August, 30. The first street trams in Britain are introduced in Birkenhead

September, 3. Dickens burns his personal papers.

September, 11. Dickens’s seventh child, Sydney Smith Haldimand, joins the Royal Navy.

October.17. The first professional golf tournament is held at Prestwick in Scotland,

October, 18. In the Second Opium War Beijing’s Old Summer Palace is burnt to the ground.

December, 1 (Saturday). Great Expectations begins weekly serialisation in All the Year Round (continuing to August 1861). The first part includes publication of Chapters 12.

December, 8 (Saturday). Part 2 (Chapters 34) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

December, 14. Death of George Hamilton-Gordon, 4th Earl of Aberdeen, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from December 1852 – January 1855 (born in 1784).

December, 15 (Saturday). Part 3 (Chapter 5) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

December, 15 (Saturday). First series of The Uncommercial Traveller published.

December, 18 (Tuesday). Dickens gives a charitable reading for the Chatham Mechanics’ Institute, held at the Lecture Hall, Chatham, at 8pm. Reads a locally-based story from Six Poor Travellers House, The Boots at the Hollytree Inn, and the Mrs Gamp episode from Martin Chuzzlewit.

December, 22 (Saturday). Part 4 (Chapters 67) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

December, 29 (Saturday). Part 5 (Chapter 8) of Great Expectations is published in All the Year Round.

December, 29 (Saturday). The world’s first ocean-going (all) iron-hulled and armoured battleship, HMS Warrior is launched on the Thames.

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.