The History of Chimney Sweeping
Oliver Twist Chimney & Fireplace of Huntington Beach, CA, would like to share a little chimney sweep history that you might find interesting.
In the beginning . . .
Chimney sweeping dates back to 16th-century England. The name “chimney sweep” was given to both the process and the people who did the work.
Originally, chimney sweeps cleaned chimneys in large estates and castles owned by the wealthy or ruling classes. This was mainly because these were the only people who could afford to have fireplaces and chimneys built.
As years passed, fireplaces and chimneys became more economical, and “common” people began enjoying a little more discretionary income. Soon, fireplaces and chimneys were showing up everywhere. Chimney sweeping was a dirty, filthy job. Early sweeps had only the crudest of brushes and scrapers, unlike today’s chimney sweeps, who have access to a full menu of sophisticated tools. In jolly olde England, many sweeps literally jumped from roof to roof during the workday, so they couldn’t carry a ton of equipment even if they had it.
More work for the chimney sweep
A hearth tax was instituted in the 17th century, based in part on how many chimneys a home had. This led to people directing the venting from two or more of their fireplaces into a single chimney.
During this era, people started using coal instead of wood in their fireplaces. Coal produced large amounts of flammable, toxic byproducts for chimney sweeps to clean.
Children made good chimney sweeps because they were little enough to climb into cramped flues and scrape off the coal deposits. But they often ended up with deformed bones from the unnatural positions they spent so much time in. Soot inhalation led to lung diseases in some of the children, and often they didn’t live past middle age.
In 1864, after growing public outcry over this situation, Parliament made it illegal to send children into chimneys to clean them.
During the 18th century, new and better equipment for chimney sweeping was developed by a London inventor named Joseph Glass, who was an aggressive campaigner against children working in chimneys. Many of the tools we use today are similar to the canes and brushes that Glass introduced to the trade.
The modern chimney sweep
While gas and oil heating have taken the place of fireplaces in much of our modern world, there are still plenty of chimneys that need sweeping. Unlike early chimney sweeps, the modern chimney technician has access to intense training and education to help him or her do the job safely and efficiently.
Modern chimney sweeps also have time-tested tools, equipment and processes that allow them to remove flammable creosote and drafting obstructions. We’ve come a long way since the early days of chimney sweeping. It will be interesting to see how much further we’ll take this profession in the future.
Keeping your chimney safe and efficient
Since 1987, Oliver Twist Chimney & Fireplace has provided full-service chimney sweeping, chimney repairs, chimney inspections and everything else your chimney needs to be safe and run efficiently. We’ve learned from the past, and we embrace the chimney sweep technologies of today.
When your chimney needs help, call the team you can count on for jobs done right the first time. We’re a state-licensed contractor serving Los Angeles and Orange counties in Southern California.
Reach a chimney expert at (714) 843-9944 or get in touch with our handy contact form.