Chimney Sweeps In Movies: How Do they Compare to Reality?
Can you picture Dick Van Dyke as he sings and dances his way across the rooftops of London exalting the life of the chimney sweep? Disney’s “Mary Poppins” made us want to put on our top hats and start the charmed life of a chimney sweep. Do these chimney sweeps in movies match real-life sweepers, though?
Chimney Sweeping in the Past
“A sweep is as lucky as lucky can be!”
Chimney sweeping began around the 16th century and a sweep’s life was very far from charmed. Children as young as three were often employed by a master sweep due to their ability to squeeze into small enclosed spaces. These children were from impoverished families and were often sold by their parents to the master sweep to act as apprentices. The local parish would pay the masters to take care of these children in any way they saw fit. These children were the property of the master until they came of age, if they survived that long.
“Now as the ladder of life ‘as been strung, you may think a sweeps on the bottommost rung. Though I spends me time in the ashes and smoke, in this ‘ole wide world there’s no ‘appier bloke!”
The ashes and smoke could cause lung damage, blindness, and cancer. A hot chimney causes severe burns. A child that tried to jam themselves into a chimney that was too tight might be lucky enough to be rescued with ropes. The unlucky ones would suffocate and die, which would require a section of the chimney to be removed to get to the body.
Improvements to Safety and Standards Today
“On the rooftops of London, Cool, what a sight!”
With the creation of child labor laws, child chimney sweeps are no more. However, the chimney sweep of today still faces many safety concerns that could put their lives in jeopardy.
Our sweeps at Black Moose sweep from the appliance up in most cases. Though there are times we will have to get on the roof to clean out a cap or dislodge a clog. Bad weather, as well as any type of roof, can put a sweep in jeopardy if they are not using the correct safety precautions. Harnesses, helmets, gloves, and appropriate footwear will save a sweep a lot of grief, but even the safest sweep can still have an accident.
The ash from a wood burning appliance can cause respiratory issues, skin, and eye irritations. Creosote contains carcinogens that can cause cancer. Hot appliances; animals in a flue; and old, damaged metal liners with rusted and jagged edges are only some of the issues our sweeps confront every day.
“When you’re with a sweep, you’re in glad company, Nowhere is there are more ‘appier crew than them wot sings, chim chim cher-ee, chim cher-oo, chim chiminey, chim chim, cher-ee chim cher-oo.”
We are proud of our sweeps here at Black Moose Chimney. Their job is not an easy one, but they do it to keep hundreds of families safe and warm. Contact us today for professional chimney sweeping services!