If we dig into the history of chimney sweeping industry, we won’t find a single chapter that echoed the illustration of the joyful sweep, the character played by Dick Van Dyke in the signature classic movie titled Mary Poppins. It is sad enough that the reality is something else and not merry. For centuries, this profession is not safe and lucrative in spite of the mandatory need of the chimney sweep.
Today’s modern chimney sweeps are respected in many ways. If we want to get the earliest signs of chimneys, we have to go back to the 13th century in Italy. The profession got exposure in the 16th century in England. The ruling class in England used to have chimneys attached to their houses. The chimney sweeps used to keep them clean. It was not very long ago that the working class started to request that the fireplaces and the chimneys must be constructed in each room of the buildings.
The chimney sweeps have many works to handle. Many times, they move from one roof to another roof sweeping the creosote and soot from the dirty chimneys. In the 17th century, England started to charge a massive tax. It was primarily depended on the number of chimneys a house contains. The builders started linking the flues with the chimneys that were present for dodging the tax. Hence, the chimneys became narrow, more complicated, pitch black, and the poor chimney sweeps had to clean them all by entering the complex mazes.
The significance of the chimney sweeps become more substantial when most people started using coal rather than firewood. If the deposits of the sticky soot were not cleaned regularly, poisonous fumes would revert in the home. With the growing use of coal, the chimney sweeps became a symbol of good hearth and good health as they restore clean and pure air in people’s homes. But very, unfortunately, the senior chimney sweeps used to hire small boys to do the work of entering maze-like chimneys for cleaning. Those kids were either orphans or sold by their poor parents to the chimney master.
The little kids used to work from dawn to evening. They were forced to climb through the chimneys in the place for a place to eat and sleep. They had to scrub the coal deposits from the inner flue linings. If any kid dared to show a denial of climbing up on the chimney, the chimney master used to light a small fire in the fireplace. This is exactly the origination of the phrase “to light a fire under someone” took place.
The young sweeps used to be usually between 5 years and 11 years old. They had to suffer many hazards. Their bones often used to get deformed due to the weird positions of their soft and little bodies continuously during the soot cleaning. The children also used to get trapped and die inside the chimneys. They used to have a bad time from soot inhalation. Most of the child sweeps couldn’t cross middle age. The adolescent sweeps used to suffer from industrial cancer that was first recorded. It was extremely painful.
Many people acknowledged the harsh treatment given to the little children who were made chimney sweeps. Genuine efforts were made to put a stop to it. Many works of literature supported the effort. One of the pieces is the poem “The Chimney Sweeper” penned by the eternally famous poet William Blake. Follow the link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chimney_Sweeper
Finally, the English Parliament passed “Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers” in 1864 which ended the norm of hiring child chimney sweeps in that country. Follow the link:
Then, due to the growing necessity of cleaning chimneys, a method was discovered. Joseph Glass had invented canes and brushes for chimney cleaning during the 18th century. His basic designs were so scientific that they are even used today.
Added, the use of the camera came into being. The camera can be easily lowered into the chimney flues for detecting the damage present in the lining.
The modern chimney sweeps are educated and they understand the science of chimneys and fireplaces. They know the applicable building codes. If you have venting needs, contact professional chimney sweeps. They can ensure that your chimney and the fireplace remain safe for usage.