Chimney sweep

From Academic Kids

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Chimney sweep in the 1850s

A chimney sweep is a person who cleans chimneys for a living. They are also referred to as chimney service technicians.

Although the need to clean chimneys has existed since the structure was invented, the chimney sweeps that usually come to mind are those of the Industrial Revolution. With the increased urban population, the number of houses with chimneys grew in pace and the profession of chimney sweep flourished.

In Victorian Age Britain, the business became notorious for employing young boys as they were small enough to enter the chimneys and clean them from inside. The work was dirty and dangerous, and their employers were notorious for abusing and exploiting them.

Eventually, the public outcry against the practice led to a search for a substitute and the invention of a special brush with a collapsable handle. This allowed a sweep to reach right up the chimney without the need to enter it. In the mid twentieth century, the invention of a vacuum suction device that could be attached over the fireplace made the process cleaner than ever.

Eventually, with the rise of central heating systems and the decline in the use of chimneys, the sweep profession became less prevalent, though the service continues in most communities on a small scale. Many American homeowners think their chimneys only need to be cleaned and inspected if they burn wood, but almost all heating appliances, whether they burn gas, oil, wood or coal, rely on the chimney to safely carry away toxic gases.

Chimney sweeps were often depicted in Victorian literature as heartless, abusive scoundrels typified in the book, The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley. However, with the development of the newer brush equipment and phasing out of child labor, the profession changed its image to one of agile and good natured men, the chief example being in the book series Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers and the Walt Disney film adaptation.

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