Historic chimney dating

This led to the creation of a complex labyrinth of pitch-black narrow tunnels inside the walls of the homes.

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Coal grew in popularity as an alternative fuel source for wood.

Since coal left large sticky deposits of residue on the walls of the fireplace and flue, the need for more frequent cleaning of the chimneys and flues increased.

Although the life of the chimney sweep has been dramatized and romanticized as being cheery and fun — such as presented by Dick Van Dyke in the movie, Mary Poppins — the reality of their life, especially that of the children forced into servitude, was dramatically different.

Although chimney cleaning has not always been an enviable or safe profession, chimney sweeps have always been very much-needed.

If not cleaned routinely, the deposits began to block or deflect the flow of air up the chimneys forcing harmful and toxic fumes into the buildings and homes.

As the use of coal increased, routine chimney cleaning became a necessity.

The young chimney sweeps were usually between the ages of five and eleven years of age; however, some were as young as four.

Their bones often became deformed due to the positions their young bodies were constantly forced into as they made their way through the tight spaces.

This is where the expression “to light a fire under someone” originated.

Coercion also included the poking of pins into the feet and buttocks.

Cleaning inside the maze of soot-covered flues was a dangerous and difficult job.

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