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History of the chimney sweep:

Throughout the centuries, chimney sweeps have cared for the safety of the townfolk, performing one of those dirty jobs nobody likes to do. Most American cities had ordinances requiring regular chimney sweeping as a valuable safety service. Homes were located very close together and everyone burned wood or coal to heat and cook.  Our job is as important today as ever but sweeps now care for chimneys serving a huge variety of home appliances and heating fuels

Why the tophat & tails?

Why did chimney sweeps wear tophats and tails? They are said to have most often gotten their clothing as cast-offs from funeral directors. The outfit was always a very practical black in color, and gave an air of distinction to a dirty, though necessary, job. Chimney sweeps often served double duty as the town's "nightman", whose job it was to clean out the privy. It is said that chimney sweeps wore slippers because they could be more easily removed, freeing the toes to aid their climbing grip.


The luck of the chimney sweep..

Did you know that it's good luck to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day, and most especially to shake his hand or be kissed by him? Many chimney sweeps today are still invited to weddings to help assure a good start to a happy marriage. The tradition goes back, so it is said, to a chimney sweep who lost his footing and fell from a roof. He was caught on the gutter and hanging by his foot when a young lass, whose hand was intended for another, reached through the window and pulled him in, saving his life. They fell in love and the two were later married.

Pigs and chimney sweeps are linked together in tradition as good luck charms. It once was customary for the town chimney sweep to tote a pig through the streets on New Year's Day; people paid a small sum to make a wish while pulling a hair from the pig.

 

 

The lucky little chimney sweeps are pictured here with good luck symbols - the horseshoe and shamrock.

 

Being a chimney sweep was not lucky for the little girls and boys who had this job in the 1700's to 1800's. They were a type of indentured servant, bought by the chimney sweep master. The master was to teach them the trade while being responsible for housing them. Their job was to actually climb up, inside the chimney, brushing the flue as they went, and they weren't done til their heads poked out of the chimney top. This, of course, was a scary job for these children and they were often reluctant to perform as expected. Many masters used a dangerous punishment: the child was forced up the flue then a fire was lit.  Since he couldn't come down, they had no choice but to climb up the flue. We think this is where the term "light a fire under you" originated.

These children lived in deplorable conditions. They carried a large sack with them, into which they dumped the soot they swept from the chimneys. They used this same sack as a blanket to sleep in at night, and only bathed infrequently. They were often sickly, and learned to beg handouts of food and clothing from their customers as all the money they earned went to their masters. The soot they collected was sold to farmers for fertilizer.
 

So when you meet a sweep, remember to shake his hand for luck, for it's a safer home you have when you use the services of a professional chimney sweep.

- by the Victorian Fireplace Shop
 

A most famous sweep!

Chim chiminey
Chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-ee!
A sweep is as lucky
As lucky can be


Chim chiminey
Chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-oo!
Good luck will rub off when
I shake 'ands with you
Or blow me a kiss
And that's lucky too


Now as the ladder of life
'As been strung
You may think a sweep's
On the bottommost rung


Though I spends me time
In the ashes and smoke
In this 'ole wide world
There's no 'appier bloke


Up where the smoke is
All billered and curled
'Tween pavement and stars
Is the chimney sweep world


When the's 'ardly no day
Nor 'ardly no night
There's things 'alf in shadow
And 'alf way in light
On the roof tops of London
Coo, what a sight!


I choose me bristles with pride
Yes, I do
A broom for the shaft
And a broom for the flume


Though I'm covered with soot
From me 'ead to me toes
A sweep knows 'e's welcome
Wherever 'e goes


Chim chiminey
Chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-ee!
When you're with a sweep
You're in glad company


No where is there
A more 'appier crew
Than them wot sings
"Chim chim cher-ee
Chim cher-oo!"
On the chim chiminey
Chim chim cher-ee
Chim cher-oo!

wanna hear it?

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