History of the Chimney Sweep

When initially hearing the word “chimney sweep”, many think about the bubbly sweep played by Dick Van Dyke in the classic Disney movie Mary Poppins. Read on to learn more about the history of chimney sweeps.


The first signs of chimneys go as far back as the 13th century in Italy, although it still took hundreds of years for chimneys to really catch on in a mainstream way. The actual profession of chimney sweeping was founded in 16th century England.


In the beginning, only the elite ruling class of England had chimneys, while chimney sweeps had the arduous task of keeping them clean. It wasn’t too long thereafter before the working class began requesting the installation of fireplaces and chimneys in every room of their homes. This gave chimney sweeps plenty of work to do, where they would move from roof to roof cleaning out the soot and creosote from the chimneys.


The chimney sweep profession grew even more important when most people started using coal in place of firewood. If the chimneys were not regularly cleaned, toxic fumes would fill the homes. With the increased use of coal, chimney sweeps became a symbol of both good hearth and good health.


Since necessity is the mother of invention, another method was needed for chimney cleaning. Therefore, Joseph Glass invented brushes and canes for cleaning chimneys in the 18th century, with his designs still in use today.