Chimney Sweepers are people that went down chimneys to clean the soot, dirt, and ash off of chimneys.
Chimney sweeping started around the 16th century, and was widely needed by families that were rich and were able to afford a chimney sweeper. It started in England because that’s where chimneys were invented, and mostly rich people had them because they were not cheap to build or add in to a house. Most chimney sweepers were kids ages 3-6.
Those kids were bought from orphan homes so they could be used and their owners wouldn’t have to pay them a lot for the work they did. Some kids were also bought from parents that couldn’t afford to keep the kid and needed money. When the kids went down the chimney so they could clean them, they would come back up dirty, bruised and with cuts all over their bodies. They would sometimes go to wherever their owner let them sleep and have to sleep in the soot and dirt that they had on them because it was rare for owners to wash they kids. If they ever complained that they were sore or that their cuts hurt, they would stand the kid in front of hot fire and scrape their knees and elbows with a strong brush so they could hardened and not scrape so easy.
Kids that would go down a chimney and take too long to finish cleaning were punished by sending down another kid with a needle or some type of sharp object and poked the other kids feet so he could clean faster. Sometimes when they were cleaning they couldn’t breathe because of all the soot and dirt, some even got cancer because of how dangerous the air was. Kids sometimes would get ash or nasty dirt in their eyes and would go blind. There were even reports that some kids would be down a chimney for so long that all the dirt and ash got into their bodies and made them choke and led to their deaths. Even if they survived they would have to deal with the pain of bruises, scrapes, cuts, cancer, blindness, and some even broke bones. In 1788 the Chimney Sweepers Act of 1788 was passed and only let an owner to have 6 apprentices and they had to be at least 8 years old, although most owners ignored the law and still made kids under the age of 8 work. The Chimney Sweepers Act of 1834 stated that owners could have 6 apprentices but no younger than the age 14 and any kids that were already under the age of 14 .
Many of these laws that were passed were ignored by owners and still continued to rebel against the rules. Not until the Chimney Sweepers Act of 1875 that made it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to chimney sweep unless the went the police and ask for authorization.