The History Of The Chimney Sweep: An Overview
Have you ever wondered how chimney sweeping began? Let us discuss the history of the chimney sweep in both the UK and the US, and how the modern profession of chimney sweep came into existence. Let’s get started!
1700s – Industrialization And The Creation Of The Chimney Sweep
In the 1600s, chimneys were typically wide, and buildings were not very high, or grouped together very closely. Because of this, they were easy to clean, even by non-professionals. However, after the Great London Fire and industrialization, chimneys became much narrower and more difficult to clean.14 inches by 9 inches became one of the most common standards.
This had the unfortunate side effect of making it difficult – if not impossible – for an adult man to clean the chimney. So, boys as young as the age of four years apprenticed with adult chimney sweeps. These young boys had to climb up the chimneys and flues, cleaning them with hand tools. As you can imagine, this was extremely dangerous and poorly-paying work.
By the late 1700s, legislation had been introduced to help improve working conditions for these children. By 1834, it was illegal for a boy of under 14 to work as a chimney sweep or apprentice.
1800s – More Advanced Cleaning Tools Replace Child Labor
Inventor George Smart invented the first mechanical sweeper – an adjustable brush that could replace child labor – in 1803. Its implementation was resisted by chimney sweeps in the UK. However, in the US, Joseph Glass, an inventor, created a new, modern brush very similar to today’s chimney sweep brushes. This new invention mostly eliminated the need for children to work as chimney sweeps.
By the late 1870s, regulations against child sweeps had taken hold in both the United States and in the United Kingdom, and the profession ceased to exist, replaced by adult sweeps who used specialized brushes.
Early-To-Mid 1900s – Chimney Sweeps Enter The Mainstream
Chimney sweeps began to enter popular culture around the turn of the century. Perhaps the most famous representation of chimney sweeps in popular culture was in Mary Poppins. Dick van Dyke portrayed Bert, a chimney sweep and performer who was one of the central characters of the story.
However, modern central heating systems using ducting and radiators also became more popular around the early 20th century, and fireplaces were no longer the primary method of providing heat in most buildings.
Modern Day – Chimney Sweeps Adapt To Changing Times
Today, chimney sweeps do much more than just clean chimneys. Other venting systems for furnaces, coal-burning furnaces, and furnaces that use heating oil and wood pellets require regular inspections and cleaning. Modern chimney sweeps specialize in creosote removal, minor chimney repairs, and other diagnostic and repair services.
Chimney Sweeps Are Still Just As Important Today As They Were Centuries Ago
The profession may have changed over time – but its importance has not! Just like the very first chimney sweeps, hiring a professional chimney sweep in Jacksonville is still critical for ensuring that your chimney system is in good shape, free of debris, and safe to use.