When coal was king and central heating was but a dream the only way to heat a home was by a real fire in a fireplace. Wood kindling was used to set the fire off and coal would keep it a blaze providing warmth and heat to the rooms that were lucky to have one, usual the sitting room. The down side of this warming scene was that the ingredients produced a lot of smoke. To stop this smelly and unhealthy substances getting into the home the fireplace had a chimney to channel the smoke out into the atmosphere where it could combine with fog to make deadly smog, contribute to global warming and generally lower air quality. It also made a mess of your carpets when clearing out the ash afterwards. A Cheltenham Carpet Cleaning Company at http://gnccontractservices.com/ would have been very useful to have. The Chimney needed cleaning as well and this was a very specialist job that required the services of the Chimney sweep. The smoke cools rapidly coating the chimney with a layer of soot. This build up cannot be left alone. It was a necessity that it was cleaned and could not be avoided. If you left it there was a great likelihood that you would have had a chimney fire as the soot built up and the ensuring heat set it alight.
It wasn’t like Mary Poppins. You would not have had a happy skipping Sweep followed by a ragged band of others singing “Step in time”. There was a very good reason for this as it was a dirty job and quite unpleasant. Not only that, it was an extremely badly paid job even though it was providing a vital service. With the increase in an urban population more houses with chimneys were being produced therefore creating more work.
The popular view of the Sweep is a man with a set of telescopic or attachable poles with a wide circular brush. However, this was only the case after 1875 when it became illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to clean a chimney. The men of the Mary Poppins song were very different before that. To start with they had no brush. Instead they would send boys as young as 6 into the flue system. These children were the only ones able to get through the maze of flues that linked houses together. There are many barbaric examples of what the boys and girls endured. To start with they had their knees and feet hardened by an intensive course of being stuck in front of a fire and Brine rubbed in to the knees and feet, so they could better deal with the rigours ahead. If that didn’t work the Master sweep would light a small fire so that the child would work faster. Invariably this just hastened the death of the child earlier. If suffocation or burning didn’t get them they were likely to contract scrotal cancer. Why it’s to see a Chimney sweep your wedding day is beyond me.