Chimney Sweep

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. Boys as young as four climbed hot flues that could be as narrow as 9 inches square. Work was dangerous and they could get jammed in the flue, suffocate or burn to death. As the soot was a carcinogen, and as the boys slept under the soot sacks and were rarely washed, they were prone to Chimney Sweeps Cancer. From 1775 onwards there was increasing concern for the welfare of the boys, and Acts of Parliament were passed to restrict, and in 1875 to stop this usage. Lord Shaftesbury, the philanthropist, led the later campaign. In the United States, Black children were hired from their owners and used in the same way, and were still climbing after 1875.

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.

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Famous quotes containing the words sweep and/or chimney:

    And my spirit is grown to a lordly great compass within,
    That the length and the breadth and the sweep of the marshes of
    Will work me no fear like the fear they have wrought me of yore
    When length was failure, and when breadth was but bitterness sore,
    And when terror and shrinking and dreary unnamable pain
    Drew over me out of the merciless miles of the plain,—
    Oh, now, unafraid, I am fain to face
    The vast sweet visage of space.
    Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)

    When a daughter tries suicide
    and the chimney falls down like a drunk
    and the dog chews her tail off
    and the kitchen blows up its shiny kettle
    and the vacuum cleaner swallows its bag
    and the toilet washes itself in tears ...
    Anne Sexton (1928–1974)