History Of Chimney Sweeps

The first chimneys were constructed in Britain in the thirteenth century, and the French conquerors rapidly extended the technique across the nation. Because these early chimneys were considerably broader than contemporary equivalents, cleaning them was generally a relatively simple job that was left to the homeowners. As cities developed, a chimney cleaning business emerged to meet the needs of the rising leisure classes, who didn’t want soot on their costly coats.Learn more about this at chimney sweep.

Everything altered after the Great Fire of London in 1666. After razing a third of the city, the architects set out to reconstruct everything in the most up-to-date manner. Because the chimneys in these new homes were constructed with considerably lower proportions, the traditional technique of sweeping became much more difficult. Because adults could no longer fit inside, youngsters were soon tasked with climbing into the chimneys. They were often orphans purchased from local parish orphanages. In a strange instance of dependency, the money from these auctions typically kept the orphanages operating.

It didn’t take long for the public to become outraged at the chimney sweeping industry’s practise of exposing orphans as young as six years old to this hazardous job. The Society of Master Sweeps was first successful in obtaining Sunday off for climbing boys, but by the end of the 18th century, the public had resorted to the courts. There were significant efforts to enact legislation controlling the living circumstances of juvenile chimney sweeps in 1788, 1792, and 1795.

When writing Songs of Innocence & Experience, William Blake made care to include two poems on the climbing lads’ predicament. During this period, Jonas Hanway famously likened the condition of the climbing boys to that of the slave trade, which the government was about to prohibit.

At the same time, the industrial revolution increased demand for chimney sweeping, and entrepreneurs began to develop methods of sweeping chimneys without the need of climbing boys. The first mechanised chimney sweeping equipment was developed in 1803; however, it wasn’t until John Glass produced the Improved Sweeping Machine in 1829 that the contemporary instruments used by today’s chimney sweeps started to emerge. Taking children from orphanages was still the cheapest option, thus the practise of climbing boys persisted.

The problem of climbing youths had become even more prominent by the mid-nineteenth century, and in 1840, the first legislation expressly prohibiting all chimney sweeps under the age of 21 was enacted. Chimney sweep boys are perhaps the most iconic picture of Victorian London, yet they were just three years away from being banned forever when Queen Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837. Climbing boy laws were tightened even further in 1864, with huge penalties imposed on any company that hired anybody under the age of 21, thus ending the period of sooty youngsters cleaning chimneys.

As the twentieth century progressed and coal grew less popular, chimney sweeping became less of a fixture in city life. However, the business continues to grow discreetly to this day, since leaving chimneys unswept may result in serious health and fire risks. Today, chimneys are cleaned remotely using descendants of Glass’s Sweeping Machine, and the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps still regulates the industry.

Contact Info

The Chimney Specialists Inc
823 Main St # 8, Sumner, WA, 98390
253-862-1522