Five Bits of Chimney Sweep Trivia
Did you know that the chimney sweep industry has a very interesting and colorful history? The sometimes dark and sometimes light-hearted stories surrounding chimney sweeps have been told for centuries. As interesting as chimney sweep trivia is, not all of it is common knowledge. Perhaps the following trivia will be news to you.
Chimney Sweeping is Not an All-Male Tale
Chimney sweeping in times past was a very dirty business in more ways than one, and it’s only natural to think females would want nothing to do with being smeared with soot. In the 1700s and 1800s, however, there were girls between the ages of 4 and 12 who were either sold by their impoverished parents or were obtained from orphanages for the purpose of climbing inside of chimneys 364 days out of the year. The vast majority of those who were forced to work as chimney sweeps were climbing boys, but it should be remembered that there were climbing girls, as well. Thankfully, there are effective tools which do the job of cleaning chimneys nowadays. There is hardly a need to get dirty at all, what with modern-day methods involving vacuums that keep the mess off of furniture and floors. There are quite a few women in the chimney sweep industry these days, most of whom have affirmed at one time or another that they don’t mind dealing with soot on a daily basis.
In Former Times, Chimney Sweeps Could Patter Cant
In long ago times when climbing boys and climbing girls did the work for Master Chimney Sweeps, there were slang words that were used only by sweeps. The way of determining whether a chimney sweep was a novice or a seasoned expert was with this exchange:
The veteran chimney sweep said, “Can you patter cant?” (This meant: can you speak slang?)
If the other person had been in the industry long enough to know the slang, the answer was, “Oh, yes, I know nix is nothing and a penny roll is a win buster.”
The slang had several uses. One was to identify others who may be able to help with getting away with some type of questionable activity. If a Chimney Sweep Master yelled up the chimney to a climbing boy or girl, “Be sure to pike the lew, my lad,” it meant to leave the top of the chimney full of soot. This code was frequently used if the customer refused to pay the amount demanded by the sweep.
Forget the Rabbit’s Foot – Kiss a Chimney Sweep!
There are many symbols of good luck, and chimney sweeps are among them. One of the most famous chimney sweep legends involves King William of Britain. In 1066, the King was in a clear path of danger, with a horse and carriage rushing toward him. A chimney sweep bravely risked his own life to shove the king to safety. The king acknowledged the brave deed and invited the chimney sweep to be a special guest at his daughter’s upcoming wedding. Ever since that time, it has been considered good luck not only for a chimney sweep to attend your wedding or other special event but also for a bride to receive a kiss from a sweep.
Geese Instead of Climbing Boys
Not all chimney sweeps utilized children to clean chimneys before efficient tools were finally invented in the 18th century. Geese were sometimes used in a very inventive way. A chimney sweep would tie a rope around a goose’s neck and force it to fly up the chimney. As the goose was headed skyward, the sweep would tug downward on the rope. The flapping wings would clear away the soot in the chimney during the course of all the activity.
The Chimney Sweep Profession is Widely Celebrated Annually
In Rochester, England, there is a three-day Chimney Sweep Festival every year in spring. The event goes back at least 400 years and was reintroduced in modern times in 1980. The festival primarily focuses on celebrating the one day a year chimney sweeps of times past were allowed to take the day off. May Day was the original day of celebration, marking the end of winter and arrival of spring. In the modern parades in England, there are numerous dances and other representations of the olden days, such as Jack-in-the-Green, a man dressed as a 7-foot tree.
Give us a call if you need to schedule a chimney cleaning. We’ll get the job done with the best of modern-day equipment, which is modeled after the original chimney cleaning inventions by Joseph Glass.
Chimney Solutions, Inc.
1155 McFarland 400 Drive, Alpharetta GA 30004
Office 770-255-1300 / Toll Free 877-697-9337