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A Brief History of Chimney Sweeps

The job title “chimney sweep” carries with it connotations both romantic and sooty. The first images that pop into people’s imagination when they hear the words “chimney sweeps” are either Mary Poppins or something close to the world of Charles Dickens. However, the chimney sweep in history goes farther back in time than Victorian London. This is an old profession, and a necessary one from the days of the first chimneys up through today.

Chimney sweeps are still with us, and they may not be as soot-covered as before, but they’re still ready to keep your chimney clean and safe. You can find some of the finest chimney sweeps at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. Call on us for fast and effective chimney inspection and chimney cleaning in Eden Prairie, MN.

The Chimney Sweep in History

The ancient Romans usually receive credit for the invention of what we would call a chimney. Since the Bronze Age, homes and palaces used large central hearths vented through a hole in the ceiling to heat rooms. But the Romans started to use fires in individual places of a dwelling that vented out a brick stack. Cleaning this was crucial to making sure the exhaust left the room and didn’t enter it, although there was not yet a single profession dedicated to the job.

It was during the 16th century in England that fireplaces with chimneys developed toward their modern versions, with fireplaces built in each room of a house to spread warmth more evenly. When the Crown levied a hearth tax in the 17th century on the number of chimneys in a house, homeowners would build complex tunnels systems of vents to all connect to single chimney. Coal also started to replace wood as the main fireplace fuel. Now homes were riddled with twisty channels choked with coal soot—and the task of keeping them clean was so large that a new profession arose to deal with it: the full-time chimney sweep.

This was an often hazardous occupation. Soot is dangerous for lungs, and the sweeps were frequently up in high places or required to squeeze up difficult narrow shafts. Orphaned children were often placed into indentured servitude as sweeps in exchange for food and lodging. (The term “light a fire under you” comes from a master threatening a frightened child sweep to continue to climb up a long chimney to complete the cleaning.)

In 1864, this abusive practice thankfully ended when Parliament passed a law to stop child labor as chimney sweeps. New inventions also allowed for much easier cleaning of chimneys.

Today in the U.S., chimney sweeps are highly specialized professionals certified to work to keep people’s fireplaces safe using the finest modern equipment.

For quality chimney cleaning in Eden Prairie, MN from a professional chimney cleaning service, contact the experts at 2nd Generation Chimneys, Inc. Give us a call today to schedule your next service appointment!

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