These are some of the key dates in the life of John Clare and the Clare Cottage.

(The dates of some events before 1820 remain speculative.)

1793 - Born 13 July, Helpston, Northants. Twin sister Bessy dies in infancy.
1798 - Attends a local 'Dame School' run by Mrs Bullimore.
1800 - Attends a school at Glinton Church, taught by Mr Seaton.
1803 - Meets Mary Joyce. James Merrishaw succeeds Seaton as Clare's teacher.
1804 - (aged about 11) Receives from his uncle (a drover) a copy of Pomfret's Poems, which his father reads to him, stimulating his love of poetry.

1805 - Employed as a ploughboy by Mrs Bellairs of Woodcroft Castle. Several employments rejected (the apprenticeships offered are all too expensive). Travels to Wisbech for an interview with Counsellor Bellamy, but fails to impress him.

1806 - Begins working as a potboy for Francis Gregory, the landlord of the Blue Bell Inn, Helpston, next door to his home. Reads, then buys Thomson's Seasons, which makes his heart 'twitter with joy'. This inspires him to write down a poem for the first time ('The Morning Walk'). Continues to write, and develop his education.

1807 - Works as a gardener at Burghley House.
1808 - Attempts to enlist in the Nottinghamshire Militia at Newark.
1809 - Act for the enclosure of Helpston passed. First dated poem, 'Helpstone'.
1812 - Joins Northamptonshire Militia at Oundle.
1816-17 - Working again as a gardener at Burghley House.
1817 - Lime-burning at Great Casterton and Pickworth in Rutland; meets Martha ('Patty') Turner, his future wife.
1818 - Meets Edward Drury, Stamford bookseller, and Octavius Gilchrist, local editor.
1819 - Meets Drury's cousin John Taylor (Keats's publisher), at Stamford. Earl Spencer grants him a £10 annuity.

1820 - Poems Descriptive of Rural Life and Scenery published by Taylor and Hessey. 1,000 copies of first edition; four editions that year. Meets Lord Fitzwilliam of Milton Hall. Meets Artis & Henderson. The Marquis of Exeter (owner of Burghley House) grants him 15 guineas a year for life. Visits London; acquires Lord Radstock, Mrs Emmerson as patrons. Meets Bishop of Peterborough. William Hilton paints portrait. Visits Holywell Hall. Marries Martha Turner; first child, Anna Maria, born.

1821 - The Village Minstrel published by Taylor and Hessey. Second child dies in infancy. Taylor visits Clare at Helpston.
1822 - Second visit to London: meets Lamb, Hazlitt, Thomas Hood.
1823 - Third child, Eliza Louise born. Death of Octavius Gilchrist.
1824 - Fourth child, Frederick, born. Third visit to London: meets Coleridge, Thomas de Quincey. Begins his Journal and Autobiography.
1825 - Death of Lord Radstock.
1826 - Birth of fifth child, John.
1827 - The Shepherd's Calendar with Village Stories and Other Poems published. Sixth child dies in infancy.
1828 - Fourth visit to London: bronze bust of him cast by Henry Behnes Burlowe. Birth of seventh child, William Parker. Visits Boston, Lincs.
1830 - Birth of eighth child, Sophia.
1832 - The Midsummer Cushion completed, but remains unpublished (until 1979). Moves with his family to Northborough, a few miles from Helpston.
1833 - Birth of ninth child, Charles.
1835 - The Rural Muse, Clare's last book, published. Death of his mother.
1837 - Admitted to High Beach Asylum, Epping Forest, suffering from delusions. Under Matthew Allen's fairly enlightened regime regains some of his physical health.
1838 - (July) Mary Joyce dies, unmarried, at 41, while Clare is at High Beech. On his return, he steadfastly refuses to believe she is dead.
1841 - (July) leaves High Beech and walks 80 miles home to Northborough, surviving by "eating the grass by the roadside" (described in the 'Journey Out of Essex').

(December) is committed to Northampton General Lunatic Asylum and remains there for his last 23 years.

1843 - Death of his eldest son, Frederick.
1844 - Death of his eldest daughter, Anna Maria.
1845 - W.F. Knight becomes Asylum Steward, Dr Nesbitt Superintendant. Knight transcribes many of Clare's poems in the ensuing period.
1846 - Death of his father, Parker, aged 82.
1852 - Death of his youngest son, Charles.
1858 - Dr Edwin Wing becomes Superintendent of Northampton Asylum.
1864 - (20 May) John Clare dies at Northampton; is brought home and buried at Helpston.
1871 - Death of Clare's wife Martha, at Spalding (buried at Northborough).
1893 - Exhibition marking the centenary of Clare's birth, in Peterborough.
1921 - Plaque marking Clare's cottage unveiled by Edmund Blunden.
1964 - Exhibition marking the centenary of Clare's death in Peterborough.
1981 - The John Clare Society founded at Helpston by Brian Blade, George Dixon and Edward Storey.
1989 - Clare honoured with a plaque in 'Poet's Corner', Westminster Abbey.
1993 - Bicentenary of Clare's birth: numerous celebratory events.
2004 - Clare’s cottage put up for sale. John Clare Trust formed by Paul Chirico and Barry Sheerman and completes purchase of Clare’s cottage
2007 - John Clare Trust awarded £1.27m by the Heritage Lottery Fund