The History of a Chimney Sweep
If you’ve ever watched the movie “Mary Poppins”, then you know the character Bert, the chimney sweep, who had lots of lessons to teach and adventures to explore with Jane and Michael. Bert always seemed to have something wise to say. Because of good old Bert, when people hear “Chimney Sweep” they think of a group of soot covered men dancing on the rooftops to the song “Step in Time.”
With advances in modern technology, we tend to think that the old art is lost, but that is far from the truth. Even with our climate-controlled environments, there are still many certified chimney sweeps, who are working to help keep your homes safe as well as clean. They may not be jumping across the rooftops, but if you have a fireplace in your home, it is important to have it inspected at least once a year to ensure that there are no blockages in the chimney’s shaft that will keep the dangerous smoke from rising to the rooftop.
How They Were Treated in the Past
Before Bert, chimneys were cleaned by “climbing boys” who were small enough to climb into a chimney’s shaft to clean it with their specialized brushes. This was a dangerous job, and many of these children didn’t receive enough food because if they gained weight, then they couldn’t fit inside a fireplace and its chimney. These little boys didn’t wear masks to avoid toxic chemicals or dust, and in some cases, they suffocated while trying to perform their jobs. In 1778 there began to be restrictions to protect these boys — sometimes as young as 4 — but the practice wasn’t completely banned until 1875 when it took an act of parliament to stop the practice.
Previously, chimney sweeps were required because every building used fire or coal for heat, and each person’s meals was prepared over an open flame in a fireplace. The interior surfaces of chimneys became dirty quickly from soot and debris. No one had a metal liner inside a chimney shaft to prevent internal fires, and a rooftop’s chimney was not protected from moisture or invading wildlife with a cap. Removing the soot from a fireplace and a chimney was a dirty task, and a worker used long brushes to remove the buildup of debris. Today they still use these special brushes as well as more modern tools such as vacuums, cameras, and other special chimney cleaning tools.
They Moved From One Rooftop to Another
Like you see in the Mary Poppins song “Step in Time,”In densely populated cities, buildings were right next to each other, and chimney sweeps could move from one rooftop to another to clean the next chimney. Anyone looking from below a building might think that the individual was dancing as the worker moved from one section of a roof to another. Inside a building, another chimney sweep would place a large fabric bag beneath the chimney in order to catch the loose soot to keep the inside of a building clean.
Working as a chimney sweep used to be a dangerous occupation, and many of these workers died from injuries while falling or other accidents related to the job. Fortunately, thanks to modern safety rules and regulations, they can wear a protective breathing mask, and will have a bucket truck or ladder to reach a rooftop. With a computer, they can even drop a camera into a chimney to inspect it thoroughly in order to make a repair to the stone, brick or mortar.
Joining a Guild
A modern chimney sweep understands how to work on many types of fireplaces and chimneys to repair problems or to remove debris. Not only do they fix and clean a chimney, but they can also inspect an entire rooftop to make sure that sparks and smoke are not entering crevices. In order to become considered professional, an individual will attend classes and apprentice with an expert. They will also join a guild such as: The National Chimney Sweep Guild or the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
To maintain certification, a they must continue to update their license by learning new skills in traditional or online classes. These certifications come from either the Certified Chimney Professionals or the Chimney Safety Institute of America.
Call a Quality Company to Have Your Fireplace and Chimney Inspected
While these chimney sweeps may not dance on a building’s rooftop or sing a popular song, they will inspect a chimney and fireplace to determine if the items require cleaning or a repair.