Links & Folklore
Chim Chim Cheree - Dick VanDyke
Why do I burn wood?
Wood heat is 3 times as efficient as other sources of heat. It heats you once when you cut it, once when you stack it, and once when you burn it! There is nothing more charming than a crackling fire on a cold winter day. I was raised with wood heat in our home - a wood burning stove in the living room. This was always a focal point of our home. Whether my mom was slow cooking a stew on it, or I was hanging my wet clothes near it to dry out, it was always a welcoming site. As I grew older, I missed the glow and warmth of the wood stove, and it didn't take me long to install one of my own. Now, my family and I look forward to the crisp fall days when we can burn the first fires and sit warm and satisfied around it. We have provided heat for ourselves for another year. With the volatile pricing of other fuel types, it is always encouraging to look out the window and see my pile of seasoned wood that will get me through another cold Michigan winter.
Excellent resources for wood-burning "how-to"
Call Today for a Sweep, Inspection, and a bit of good luck!
In parts of Great Britain it is considered lucky for a bride to see a chimney sweep on her wedding day. Many modern British sweeps hire themselves out to attend weddings in pursuance of this tradition. It is also considered good luck to shake hands with a chimney sweep or to be blown a kiss by one.
In Croatia, Chimney sweeps still wear a traditional all black uniform with small black cap. It is considered good luck to rub one of your buttons if you pass one in the street.
History & Folklore (from Wikipedia)
The occupation of chimney sweep is considered to be one of the oldest in the world, as chimneys have been around since ancient times, though it is only in the last two hundred years that the chimney has grown large enough to hold a man, giving rise to the image of the chimney sweep as it developed in the time of the Industrial Revolution. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries in Western Europe, construction of rooflines with crow-steppedgables became common to allow chimney sweeps convenient access to the chimney top. With the increased urban population, the number of houses with chimneys grew in pace and the occupation of chimney sweep became much respected and sought-after, although it is sometimes derided in verse, ballad and pantomime.
Climbing boys In Victorian AgeBritain, the business became notorious for employing young boys as they were small enough to enter the chimneys and clean them from inside. They were called "climbing boys". The work was dirty and dangerous, and their employers were notorious for abusing and exploiting them.
The boys also suffered from deformed joints, burns, and a form of testicular cancer caused by the carcinogenic chemicals in the soot. It was known for chimney sweeps to choke to death by inhaling soot.
Eventually, the public outcry against the practice led to a search for a substitute and the invention of a special brush with a telescoping handle and other more subtle innovations that 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.
Legislation in 1788, the Act for the Better Regulation of Chimney Sweepers and their Apprentices was passed, to limit a sweeper to six apprentices, at least 8 years old, but lacked enforcement.
In 1840 a law was passed making it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to sweep chimneys. A Friendly Society for the Protection and Education of Chimney-Sweepers' Boys had been established in 1800. The 1840 Act became a dead letter. The Chimney Sweepers Regulation Act 1864, c37. tightened controls significantly. Lord Shaftesbury was a main proponent of the Bill.
A Chimney Sweepers Act was passed in 1875 that required chimney sweepers to be authorised by the police to carry on their businesses in the district, providing enforcement.
Today, chimney sweeps still maintain a thriving industry in many parts of the world. The industry has expanded from the maintenance of wood-burning fireplace and appliance venting systems to include venting for many types of heating appliances. Venting systems for Heating Oil, natural gas, wood and pellet burning appliances, including building furnaces and space heaters are maintained by modern chimney sweeps. The standard chimney brush is still used, along with more modern tools (such as vacuums, cameras and specialed chimney cleaning tools), although most sweeps are done from the bottom of the chimney, rather than the top, to prevent the dispersion of dust and debris.
Modern sweeps are skilled laborers, and are usually trained to diagnose and repair safety and structural hazards along with simple maintenance such as sweeps.
Literature Chimney sweeps were often depicted in Victorian literature as heartless, abusive scoundrels, typified in the book The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley.
The English poet William Blake portrayed the chimney sweep as an abused child who hoped for a better life. In both Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, Blake offers poems that both showcase the life of a common sweeper and expose those who allowed barbaric actions against them to take place.
In Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist a particularly vicious chimney sweep called Gamfield wants to take Oliver as an apprentice, but at the last minute the magistrate refuses to sanction the move ("Mr Gamfield did happen to labour under the slight imputation of having bruised three or four boys to death already." )
In "The Shepherdess and the Sweep" (1845), a fairy tale by the Danishpoet and writer Hans Christian Andersen, a porcelain chimney sweep sits upon a table top near his love, a porcelain shepherdess. When the two are threatened, the chimney sweep gallantly conducts his love safely to the rooftop through the stove pipe. Andersen describes his chimney sweep as "black as coal, and also made of china. He was, however, quite as clean and neat as any other china figure; he only represented a black chimney-sweep, and the china workers might just as well have made him a prince, had they felt inclined to do so. He stood holding his ladder quite handily, and his face was as fair and rosy as a girl’s; indeed, that was rather a mistake, it should have had some black marks on it."
With the development of newer brush equipment and the end 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 which has an extended dance sequence in which the jovial workers celebrate the end of the workday with fearless acrobatic dance. The song Chimney Sweeps' leader, "Bert", played by Dick van Dyke, sings the song "Chim Chim Cher-ee" which won the Oscar for "Best Song" in 1965.