Worst jobs during the Victorian Era: Why did we used to have chimney sweeps?

Find out why and listen to the podcast episode below!

For as long as there have been fireplaces and chimneys, there have been a need for chimney sweeps…

That’s because when wood or coal is burned in a fireplace, smoky sooty deposits are created which stick to the inside of the chimney.

If there’s a lot of soot in your chimney the flue can become blocked.

This can prevent the fire from catching, and be messy because soot can then fall into the room, and it can even be dangerous because fumes and smoke can’t escape.

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A chimney sweep uses brushes and sticks to dislodge and sweep away the soot from the walls of the chimney, and collects the soot in bags for disposal.

In the Victorian era the number of houses with chimneys grew apace and so chimney sweeps became more important than ever.

The new buildings were taller with more narrow flues. These often had angles, and were very small in places – as narrow as 14 by 9 inches.

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Although men had swept chimneys, they were often too big to be able to climb inside with their brushes.

This is why children were frequently employed – often orphans, or poor children from the workhouses.

Mechanical sweeping machines were developed – as early as 1803 but it was thought that chimney sweeps and chimney boys did a better job.

It wasn’t until 1875 that regulations began to prevent children from taking part in this unhealthy and dangerous occupation.

Click here to find out more about Victorian jobs!

Kids in The Past

Discover what life for children was like throughout the ages


Dan and Bex have found a book that transports them back to Victorian Britain!

They’re exploring all the grim and nasty jobs that children just like you had to do in the past, from picking up poop to popping up chimneys.

english_landscape_blackReally? Kids Did That! is supported by The National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund.


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