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.
February. Charles Culliford Dickens returns to London from working overseas, in preparation for marriage.
February, 15 (Friday). Chatham Prison Mutiny. Around 350 convicts held on St Mary’s Island at Chatham Dockyard riot over poor food. 1,000 troops from a nearby garrison had to be sent to quell the disturbance.
February, 20. A severe storms damage the Crystal Palace in London and cause the collapse of the steeple of Chichester Cathedral.
April, 7. The 1861 United Kingdom census is held. The results reveal the population is more than double that of 1801..
April, 12-13. The American Civil War begins following the bombardment of Fort Sumter near Charleston, South Carolina by the Confederate States Army, and the return gunfire and subsequent surrender by the United States Army.
May, 17. Thomas Cook runs the first package holiday from London to Paris.
May, 22. Charles Dickens hires a steamer for the day from Blackwall to Southend. Eight or nine friends, and three or four members of his family, were on board.
June, 13. Death of Henry Gray, aged 34, from smallpox. Gray was an anatomist and surgeon most notable for publishing the book Gray’s Anatomy.
July, 31. The Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act codifies company law.
August. Great Expectations published in volume form.
August, 6. The Criminal Law Consolidation Acts is granted Royal Assent, with most of the legislation coming into effect on 1 November.
August, 27. The last execution in Britain for attempted murder is held, of Martin Doyle at Chester.
September, 16. The Post Office Savings Bank opens.
October, 24. HMS Warrior, the world’s first ocean-going iron-hulled armoured battleship is completed and commissioned.
November, 7 (Thursday). First of three readings in Brighton, held at the Town Hall at 8pm.
November, 8 (Friday). Second of three readings in Brighton, held at the Town Hall at 8pm.
November, 9 (Saturday). Third of three readings in Brighton, held at the Pavillion at 3pm.
November, 19. Charles Culliford Dickens marries Bessie Evans at St. Mark’s Church in Regent’s Park, London.
November, 23 (Saturday). Last of three nightly readings in Newcastle, held at the Music Hall. Dickens gives a reading of the story of Little Paul from Dombey and Son and the trial scene from The Pickwick Papers.
December (?). Dickens gives a charitable reading for the Chatham Mechanics’ Institute.
December, 14. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, husband of Queen Victoria, dies at Windsor Castle at the age of 42 from typhoid fever.
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.