Did you know that Steamer’s offers more than just carpet cleaning? One of the many services that our technicians can perform is chimney cleaning.
Chimney cleaning, unfortunately, has a rather ugly past. Chimney sweeping became a popular service in England at the beginning of the British Industrial Age in the late 18th century. A growing urban population meant that more houses needed to be built and consequently, more chimneys swept out. Because the chimney flues were so narrow, however, the sweeping couldn’t be done by adults but rather became the task of children.
Poor young boys were the most common “chimney sweeps” in London and other English cities. They would roam the streets from morning till night and call out their services to the neighbors. Anyone who needed to have their chimney swept would invite them inside.
An adult “master” chimney sweep would accompany the boys, some of whom were as young as four, and force them to crawl up into the narrow flues with a brush. The climbing boy would then sweep the soot off the walls of the chimney above him. This falling soot was gathered in a blanket at the bottom of the fireplace and could be sold later on.
Obviously, the occupational hazards of chimney sweeps were enormous. Boys often would become stuck in the flues for hours and could suffocate to death if not pulled out in time. Boys also suffered from scraped knees and arms as they went up the flues. Sometimes the chimney could still be hot from a recent fire and the boys would emerge from a job with burns and blisters. General neglect of the boys’ wellbeing was rampant as well. Many were stunted in their growth and quite a few suffered from a form of genital cancer known as “chimney sweeps cancer.”
The first attempt to regulate chimney sweep working conditions came in 1788 with the Chimney Sweepers Act. The law tried to limit each master sweeper to only six apprentice sweeper boys. All the boys, it said, had to be at least eight years old. The law lacked enforcement, however, and was generally ignored.
The Chimney Sweepers Act of 1834 made the first positive steps towards ensuring the safety of apprentice chimney sweeps. The act set the minimum age of climbing boys at 14. Moreover, boys could not be simply given to masters but had to go before a magistrate to express their desire to become a sweep. Master sweeps were again limited to six apprentices. This law was better enforced than the previous attempt yet was still widely ignored.
More regulations were passed throughout the 19th century but it wasn’t until the Chimney Sweepers Act of 1875 that abuses really ended. The 1875 act required that all chimney sweeps had to be authorized by the police to practice in their districts. This brought the legal means through which previous legislation could be enforced.
Today, thankfully, modern technology has eliminated the need for climbing boys. Rather, all chimney cleaning is done by a trained professional who uses a variety of tools including vacuums, cameras and long-necked brushes.
If you need chimney cleaning or other cleaning services for your home, contact Steamer’s today.