Chimney sweeper, 1850.
A chimney sweep is a worker who clears ash and soot from chimneys. The chimney uses the pressure difference caused by a hot column of gas to create a draught and draw air over the hot coals or wood enabling continued combustion. Chimneys may be straight or contain many changes of direction. During normal operation, a layer of creosote builds up on the inside of the chimney restricting the flow. The creosote can also catch fire, setting the chimney and the building alight. The chimney must be swept to remove the soot. This was done by the master sweep.In the United Kingdom, the master sweeps took apprentices, who were boys from the workhouse or bought them from their parents and trained them to climb chimneys. In the German States, master sweeps belonged to trade guilds and did not use climbing boys. In Italy, Belgium, and France climbing boys were used.History of the English Chimney Sweep-© 2010 A Division of Peak Management Solutions Limited.In the 17th and 18th century it was the governments wishes that all flues and chimneys would be cleaned often to help prevent problems from occurring. The chimneys of that period were very large so a master chimney sweep would use small children to climb up inside flues with brushes and metal scrapers to clean them. The young children, often known as ‘climbing boys’, would use there hands and metal scrapers to remove hard tar and soot which would be deposited from the smoke created by burning wood, logs and coal.It was common for the child to become scared and reluctant to climb so often the young child would be followed by a more experienced older child who would poke the boy’s feet with needles if they slowed down or stopped, or for a small fire to be lit underneath the child, to force them to climb to the top. Everyday the child would be put at great risk from becoming stuck in the chimneys as they narrowed at the top, from breathing difficulties and even falling to their death. The master sweep would be paid a fee which was used to clothe, feed and teach the child his trade.