A Brief History of Chimney Sweeping [Infographic]
Chimney sweeping is one of the UK’s oldest professions. Synonymous with the industrial revolution it has changed drastically over the years, and while modern chimney sweeps can still keep your flue nice and clean, they offer so much more than they ever used to.
But what does the history of chimney sweeping look like? This infographic should give you an idea.
1760 – Beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Britain
This time period coincides with the rapid growth of the chimney sweeps industry. Coal production and demand rose hugely, which only increased the need for household chimney cleaning services. London was a hotbed for the chimney sweeps during this time.
Bristol engineer Joseph Glass introduced his chimney sweeping machine, made up of solid cane, brass screw joints, extendable rods and brushes. The machine resembles the sweeping equipment used today and was designed to tackle complex shaped flues without the need for sending children to climb up the chimney.
1840 – Chimney Sweepers and Chimney Regulation Act
The first piece of legislation formed in order to stop the use of children to sweep chimneys in the UK. The 1840 act was largely ignored.
1864 – Chimney Sweepers Regulation Act 1864
An improved version of the 1840 act which brought penalties to those employing children to climb and sweep chimneys. While more effective, this act still wasn’t fully enforced.
1875 – The Chimney Sweepers Act 1875
This act led to official provision of the previous acts, and ensured that all chimney sweeps would be registered with the police, with official supervision protecting them during their work. This finally put an end to the use of child chimney sweeps in England.
Anthony Ashley-Cooper (Lord Shaftesbury) 1801-1885 – The man who proposed the Chimney Sweeps Regulations act 1864 and the following Chimney Sweepers Act 1875. He led the campaign to end the practice of child chimney sweeps (or ‘climbing boys’) and was successful in 1875, allowing the industry to adopt the more traditional equipment and techniques to clean chimneys.
The switch to gas and electricity for heating cut down on the demand for coal, and fireplaces became less popular. This caused a lull in the chimney sweep industry, until the oils crises of the 1970s forced an increase in the price of fossil fuels. Many returned to burning coal and wood, and solid fuel has remained steadily popular ever since.
1964 – ‘Mary Poppins’ Released
The movie featured Dick Van Dyke in one of the most famous portrayals of the common chimney sweep. The song ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ went on to win an Oscar the following year.
The town of Rochester in Kent revives the annual May 1st celebration where chimney sweeps would historically enjoy a day off. The annual ‘Sweeps Festival’ sees its 36th year in 2017, and is a three-day celebration of music, entertainment and sweep-themed fun.
1982 – The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (NACS) is formed
The NACS is a professional trade association dedicated to the regulation of high standards for all chimney sweeping, inspection, maintenance and repair.
Chimney sweeps and good luck
Did you know that there’s an old superstition surrounding chimney sweeps? It is said that you’ll enjoy good luck if you see a chimney sweep on your wedding day, which is why many weddings used to include a chimney sweep among the guests. This superstition is less popular today, but the modern chimney sweep can certainly bring safety and reassurance to your home with a range of sweeping, repair, inspection and maintenance services.