The chimney sweeping industry in the Victorian Era draws significance due to the unlikely features. The chimney sweeps were very common at that period. The poor people were engaged in this job as a way to make a living. Children were mainly selected as the sweeps.
In Victorian times, the life of the chimney sweeps was brutal. Even, kids young as 3 years old were made to work as chimney sweeps as their tiny body can easily slip in the narrow stacks of the chimney.
The reason behind chimney sweeping:
In the early 1900s, coal fires were the only medium of heating. Coal was used to heat the building every day of the winter. So, soot was accumulated and blocked the chimneys resulting in dirty black smoke that used to enter the room. Hence, it was important to clean the chimney at least once or twice every year.
How was the preparation for the chimney sweeping in the Victorian Era?
In those days, people use to call the sweep preferably before breakfast. The prime reason was that there was a lot of cleaning needed to be done after the chimney sweeping to make the house germ and dirt free.
The Victorian Chimney Sweepers:
Usually, chimney sweepers use to be the poor strata of society. Little boys were mainly appointed. Even, the chimney sweeps were considered as an omen for good luck for the bride on the day of the wedding.
Then, society was divided into classes. Evils like child labor existed in a massive form. Children coming from the poor family were taken as child labor from a very early age. They used to work for long hours in dangerous conditions without any water or air. The kids were to perform the task better because they were very small and can enter the chimney easily or cleaning. When they grew bigger in body proportion, the opportunities for them to work s chimney sweepers decreased.
Often, the chimney was narrow and angular. The flue dimension was 9 inches by 14 inches. It was very dangerous and harmful to work as a sweeper. Many children used to get stuck inside it.
Many dead bodies of children were extracted as they got stuck inside it covered with soot lacking fresh air. The kids couldn’t able to breathe and the inner part of the chimney often remains very hot with poisonous gas.
The Victorian house owners ordered the chimney sweep to go up the chimneys for soot cleaning. The kids used their hands and scrapers for the cleaning purpose.
Facts about Child chimney sweeps in the Victorian age:
Many times, orphans were taken and made to do slavery. They were sent back on the street when they grew big for the chimney.
The kids were underfed so that they can be thin to go down the chimney pipe. Many kids were kidnapped for making them do the chimney cleaning job.
Act for Chimney Sweepers:
In 1788, an Act was passed for the Better Regulation of Chimney Sweepers and their Apprentices for enabling a better life for the sweepers. It did not come into enforcement.
In the year 1840, another act called Chimney Sweepers and Chimneys Regulation Act 1840 was passed that strictly forbidden anyone under 21 years old from working as a chimney sweep. Again, this act didn’t work successfully as it imposed a small fine of the lawbreakers.
Again, in the year 1864, Lord Shaftesbury passed Chimney Sweepers Regulation Act. This act inflicted a bigger fine on the delinquent.
Finally, in the year 1875, an act was passed by the British parliament that stated that all the chimney sweeps need to be licensed. The license was issued only to them who were not making the climbing boys work as chimney cleaners.
Then, a gradual decline of the child chimney sweeps can be seen. In fact, the modern and advanced heating systems started replacing the old chimneys, and the professional adults took the place of child sweepers.
In the 1800s, Victorian Child Labor was a norm. At that time, there was nothing like Child Protective Services. The laws passed could slightly bring an improvement to the treatment and working conditions of the children. The true change happened after the action taken by Thomas Agnew and Lord Shaftesbury.