A Timeline of Britain in the 19th Century

By Tim Lambert


The first census is held

Another Act of Union joins Ireland to England and Scotland

1805 The battle of Trafalgar

1807 The slave trade is abolished

1811 Prince George becomes Prince Regent as his father is insane


Prime Minister Spencer Perceval is shot by John Bellingham

Charles Dickens is born

1813 The Duke of Wellington defeats the French army at the Battle of Vitoria in Spain


The battle of Waterloo

Humphry Davy invents the miners safety lamp, which saves many lives

1817 Jane Austen dies

1818 Queen Charlotte dies


The Peterloo Massacre. Cavalry charge unarmed people holding a meeting on St Peter’s Fields at Manchester. Eleven people are killed.

Sir Stanford Raffles founds Singapore

1820 George III dies. George IV becomes king.

1821 John Constable paints The Haywain

1824 Lord Byron dies

1825 The world’s first public passenger railway opens (The Stockton and Darlington railway).


The Catholic Emancipation Act gives Catholics civil rights

Sir Robert Peel forms the first modern police force in England (hence their nicknames ‘bobbies’ or ‘peelers’)

1830 George IV dies. William IV becomes king.


The Great Reform Act is passed. Seats in parliament are distributed more fairly and the middle class is given the vote.

The writer Lewis Carroll is born

1833 Slavery is abolished throughout the British Empire


Bull baiting is banned. This ‘sport’ consisted of chaining a bull to a post then using trained dogs to attack it.

1837 William IV dies. Victoria becomes queen.


The penny black stamp is introduced.

The writer Thomas Hardy is born.

Queen Victoria marries Albert

1842 A new law bans women and children from working underground in mines

1843 Charles Dickens publishes A Christmas Carol

The first Christmas card goes on sale


A new law bans women and children from working more than 10 hours a day

Charlotte Bronte publishes Jane Eyre

1848 There are cholera epidemics in British towns. The Health Act is passed.

1851 The Great Exhibition is held in London

1854-1856 The Crimean War. Britain and France defeat the Russians.

1856 Henry Bessemer invents a way of converting pig iron to steel

1857-58 The Indian Mutiny takes place

1859 Darwin publishes The Origin of Species. It outlines his theory of evolution

1860 HMS Warrior, Britain’s first iron warship is launched

HMS Warrior

1861 Prince Albert dies

1863 The first (steam driven) underground train in London


Joseph Lister invents antiseptic surgery

Lewis Carroll publishes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

1867 The second Reform Act increases the number of people allowed to vote


First Trades Union Congress

The last public execution is carried out in England

1869 Richard Blackmore publishes Lorna Doone


Education Act to provide state education for all.

Charles Dickens dies

1871 The Bank Holiday Act is passed. (For most working-class people bank holidays are their only paid holidays).


The secret ballot is introduced

The second Public Health Act is passed.

1874 The writer G K Chesterton is born


A law bans the practice of sending small boys up chimneys to clean them. From now on you have to be over 21 to clean a chimney that way.

The third Public Health Act is passed. Conditions in towns and cities are slowly getting better. In the 1870s and 1880s networks of sewers are dug and water pipes are laid. Gaslight becomes common even in the poorest homes.

Captain Matthew Webb swims the English Channel

1884 The 3rd reform act gives more men the vote

1888 Girls who make matchboxes successfully strike


Gas workers successfully strike

London dockworkers successfully strike. For the first time, unskilled workers are forming successful trade unions.

1890 The first electric underground trains run in London