1840 in the United Kingdom
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- 1 January – trial of Welsh Chartists John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones for their part in the Newport Rising of 1839 opens at Monmouth before Chief Justice Tindal. This is the first trial where proceedings are recorded in shorthand.
- 10 January – Uniform Penny Post introduced, replacing the Uniform Fourpenny Post of 1839.
- 16 January – Frost, Williams and Jones are all found guilty of high treason for their part in the Chartist riots, and are sentenced to death; the last time the sentence of hanging, drawing and quartering is passed in the U.K., although it is commuted to transportation.
- 22 January – British colonists reach New Zealand. Official founding date of Wellington.
- 6 February – Treaty of Waitangi, a document granting British sovereignty in New Zealand, is signed.
- 10 February – Queen Victoria marries her cousin Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in the Royal Chapel at St James's Palace.
- 15 April – King's College Hospital opens in Portugal Street, London.
- 27 April – the foundation stone of the new Palace of Westminster is laid as its reconstruction following the Burning of Parliament in 1834 begins (completed in 1860).
- 1 May – issue of the Penny Black, the world's first postage stamp, together with Mulready stationery. The stamp becomes valid for prepayment of postage from 6 May.
- 11 May – Chartist leader Feargus O'Connor is sentenced to imprisonment in York Castle for seditious libel over speeches published in The Northern Star.
- 20 May – York Minster's nave roof is destroyed in an accidental fire.
- 6 June – the first group of British emigrants from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints set sail from Liverpool bound for Nauvoo, Illinois.
- 10 June – Edward Oxford attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria.
- 12–23 June – the World Anti-Slavery Convention is organised by the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society at Exeter Hall in London.
- 4 July – the Cunard Line's 700-ton wooden paddle steamer RMS Britannia departs from Liverpool bound for Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the first steam transatlantic passenger mail service.
- 15 July – Austria, Britain, Prussia, and Russia sign the London Treaty with the Sublime Porte, ruler of the Ottoman Empire.
- 23 July – the Province of Canada is created by the Act of Union.
- 7 August – Chimney Sweepers and Chimneys Regulation Act 1840 prohibits the employment of children under the age of 21 as chimney sweeps.
- 10 September – Ottoman and British troops bombard Beirut and land troops on the coast to pressure Egyptian Muhammad Ali to retreat from the country.
- 16 September – Joseph Strutt hands over the deeds and papers concerning the Derby Arboretum, which is to become England's first public park.
- 30 September – foundation of Nelson's Column laid in London, Trafalgar Square being laid out (as a hectare) and paved during the year.
- 11 October – Maronite leader Bashir Shihab II surrenders to the Ottomans (in alliance with the British) and on 14 October goes into exile, initially in Malta.
- 10 November – the boiler of an experimental steam locomotive named Surprise explodes near Bromsgrove station in Worcestershire, killing the driver, Thomas Scaife, and fireman, Joseph Rutherford.
- 8 December – David Livingstone leaves for Africa.
- 21 December – Stockport Viaduct is completed. It is one of the largest brick structures in Europe.
- The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals gains its Royal status.
- W. Harrison Ainsworth's novels Guy Fawkes and The Tower of London (both serialised).
- Charles Dickens' novel The Old Curiosity Shop (serialised).
- "Thomas Ingoldsby"'s The Ingoldsby Legends (first collected in book form).
- Agnes Strickland's Lives of the Queens of England begins publication.
- William Makepeace Thackeray's novel Catherine.
- William Whewell's book The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, founded upon their history, in which he introduces the words "Physicist" and (for the second time) "Scientist".
- 1 January – Dugald Drummond, railway engineer (died 1912)
- 18 January – Henry Austin Dobson, poet and essayist (died 1921)
- 26 January – John Clayton Adams, landscape painter (died 1906)
- 5 February – John Boyd Dunlop, inventor (died 1921)
- 29 February – John Philip Holland, inventor (died 1914)
- 31 March – Benjamin Baker, civil engineer (died 1907)
- 27 April – Edward Whymper, mountaineer (died 1911)
- 2 June – Thomas Hardy, novelist and poet (died 1928)
- 20 June – George Selwyn Marryat, fly fisherman (died 1896)
- 21 June – Edward Stanley Gibbons, philatelic stamp dealer (died 1913)
- 9 October – Simeon Solomon, painter (died 1905)
- 21 November – Victoria, Princess Royal (died 1901)
- 29 November – Rhoda Broughton, writer (died 1920)
- 6 January – Fanny Burney, novelist (born 1752)
- 18 February – Jeffry Wyattville, architect and garden designer (born 1766)
- 30 March – Beau Brummell, arbiter of fashion (born 1778)
- 1 May – Joseph Williamson, philanthropist and builder of Williamson's tunnels (born 1769)
- 26 May – Sidney Smith, admiral (born 1764)
- 28 July – John George Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham (born 1792)
- 22 September – Anne Lister, landowner, diarist, mountaineer and traveller, "the first modern lesbian" (born 1791)
- Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Reference Library. 2006. ISBN 0-14-102715-0.
- "The wedding of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, 1840". The British Monarchy. The Royal Household. Retrieved 2012-12-01.
- "Icons, a portrait of England 1840–1860". Archived from the original on 17 August 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-13.
- Riding, Christine (7 February 2005). "Westminster: A New Palace for a New Age". BBC. Retrieved 2010-11-15.
- Blake, Richard. The Book of Postal Dates, 1635–1985. Caterham: Marden. p. 10.
- "History of the Church in the British Isles". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 2013. Retrieved 2014-06-10.
- Palmer, Alan; Veronica (1992). The Chronology of British History. London: Century Ltd. pp. 263–264. ISBN 0-7126-5616-2.
- Rackwitz, Martin (2007). Travels to Terra Incognita: the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides in Early Modern Travellers' Accounts c. 1600 to 1800. Waxmann Verlag. p. 347. ISBN 978-3-8309-1699-4.
- Gaskell, Jeremy (2000). Who Killed the Great Auk?. Oxford University Press. p. 142. ISBN 978-0-19-856478-2. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
- Fuller, Errol (2003). The Great Auk: The Extinction of the Original Penguin. Bunker Hill Publishing. p. 34. ISBN 978-1-59373-003-1. Retrieved 7 August 2010.
- Farah, Caesar E.; Centre for Lebanese Studies (Great Britain) (2000). Politics of Interventionism in Ottoman Lebanon, 1830-1861. I. B. Tauris. p. 43. ISBN 9781860640568.
- Rolt, L.T.C. Red For Danger (1966 ed.). Pan Books. p. 69. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
- Roberts, A. D. (2004). "Livingstone, David (1813–1873)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/16803. Retrieved 2013-02-27. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- Holt, Geoffrey O. (1978). A Regional History of the Railways of Great Britain. Vol. 10: The North West. Newton Abbot: David and Charles. p. 117. ISBN 0-7153-7521-0.
- Whewell, William (1840). "Introduction". The Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences, founded upon their history. 1. London: J. W. Parker. pp. 71, 113.
- "physicist, n". Oxford English Dictionary online version. Oxford University Press. September 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02. (subscription or UK public library membership required)
- "scientist, n". Oxford English Dictionary online version. Oxford University Press. September 2011. Retrieved 2011-12-02.[dead link]