A History Of Chimney Sweeping in the UK
28th Jan 2019
British Chimney Sweeping
Britain started using chimneys in around 1200. They were introduced as a replacement for the one room open fires which were common in most households. At first there would only be one room in a house heated so they used a large chimney.
To sweep these chimneys the master sweeps trained young boys called climbing boys from as young as three years old who would climb up the hot chimneys. Sometimes they would get stuck, suffocate or burn to death.
These boys or girls would wedge their bodies in the flue, then using their back elbows and knees would shimmy up the chimney like a caterpillar. They would have a cap over their face and use a brush to dislodge the soot which would fall to the bottom of the chimney. The boy would then slide back down the chimney and bag up the soot and take it back to the master sweep.
Over the next 400 years these techniques were used until there was a petition on the welfare of the climbing boys and girls. New legislation was passed in 1875 led by Lord Shaftsbury and meant much tighter legislation. This saw a new type of chimney introduced which was narrower and more angular. This meant the master sweeps couldn’t get inside the chimneys and manual rods and brushes began to be used.
The British Chimney Sweep
A chimney sweep is considered lucky in the UK as legend has it that in 1066 King William of England was saved by a chimney sweep who pushed him out of the way of a horse and carriage. As a reward the King asked the chimney sweep to his wedding and still it is popular in the UK for a chimney sweep to attend weddings for good luck!
Today the British chimney sweep has evolved but the job at hand remains the same. The equipment is much safer and typically manual chimney sweeping equipment is still used but more commonly powersweeping equipment has gained popularity which uses a power drill.