Very few professions carry with them a history as long and storied as that of the chimney sweep. The impact this occupation has had on society is deep – the effects of which still influence the industry today.

At Owens Chimney Systems, our chimney technicians are experts in repairing, sweeping, and maintaining chimneys. Our knowledge, techniques, and ability provide you with the highest quality service, and they’re tied to centuries of chimney sweeps serving the homes and communities to which they belonged.

When Did the Chimney Sweep Profession Begin?

a gold-covered book with glasses on top of them in front of a burning fireThe chimney sweep profession got its start all the way back in ancient Rome. Roman society saw the upper classes begin to create living spaces that were ornate and intricate in design. In order to warm the homes, a network of chimneys and flues were built into the architecture – and the need for someone to take charge of keeping the chimneys clean and free of the soot, creosote, and other byproducts that come from burning was obvious.

Records of these keepers of the hearth show that it was often young children and slaves who were small in stature that got the job of cleaning the chimney. This is because the passages in the homes were narrow and adults were simply too big to get in and climb up to the places that needed cleaning. Unfortunately, this is a practice that wouldn’t go away very soon.

Chimney Sweeping During the Industrial Revolution

For as long as there have been chimneys, there has been a need for someone to make sure that they stay clean. However, sweeping as a business really took off during the Industrial Revolution. In the 18th and 19th centuries, technology began to make it possible to produce goods and services in mass. This meant that urban populations began to develop rapidly and population density increased dramatically.

Suddenly, large multi-family homes and apartments became necessary, along with large buildings for factories and business. All of this new construction needed to be heated, and the only way to do that was through burning in stoves and fireplaces – which meant the demand for chimney sweeps naturally increased right along with the population.

Businessmen saw the opportunity to make money and chimney sweeping as a profession was born. But, as is often the case when making money is the goal, injustice and exploitation reared their ugly heads. Orphaned boys as young as the age of six were promised shelter and food in exchange for their work as chimney sweeps.

Armed with wired brushes and scraping tools these children would spend their days climbing to dangerous heights within the flue, breathe in the toxic air and chemicals that they were knocking off the walls, and scrape themselves up on the jagged angles and sharp masonry. It was dangerous work and this ragged army was getting paid with a roof, a bed, and enough food to get another day’s work out of them. The one making the money was the owner of the business.

Into the 19th Century…

a wire chimney cleaning brush with a cast iron stove in the backgroundIn the early 19th century, people began to notice the dangers of the work that children were being made to do. One injury could cost them their young life. Around the western world, communities turned to their politicians and demanded that laws be put in place to protect the worker from abuse and exploitation.

Finally, the British Parliament passed the Chimney Sweepers Act of 1834. This act led to regulations that protected child workers from being used for dangerous and difficult work. It also ushered in the advent of licensing and training standards. The world took notice and soon after the Act was passed in Britain, the rest of Europe and the Americas followed suit with their own rules and regulations.

From that time forward child labor laws, regulatory and training standards, and safety rules began to grow and change alongside other industrial, technological, and societal demands.

Chimney Sweeping in Today’s World

Although electricity, oil, and gas have become the standard ways to control a home’s climate, the desire to have a fireplace or a wood stove in your home has not. The advantages of being able to have a fire in your fireplace are many and people have noticed. Nothing is more relaxing than sitting beside the fire with friends on a cool evening. All of this means that the need for good chimney sweeps continues today.

Thanks to the sweeps of the past, the chimney industry has become a staple in fire prevention and safety. At Owens Chimney Systems our technicians receive the highest levels of training and carry with them a deep knowledge in chimney repair, safety, and – yes – sweeping. Your safety is important to us, and we join in a long history of chimney sweeps who have seen to it that you can enjoy everything about your fireplace or wood stove without worrying about a fire in your home.

Give Us a Call

Call us today at 704-486-9015 to find out how we can help you keep your chimney functioning in top form. We pride ourselves on doing all we can to keep Charlotte residents safer, so communities can enjoy all the advantages a fireplace or wood stove has to offer.

You can also reach out online – we’d love to hear from you.