This St. Patrick’s Day, everyone will be trying to catch a little bit of the Luck of the Irish. This is especially true in Chicago where one of the world’s largest St. Patrick’s Day parades and celebrations take place. Having served the Chicagoland area for 54 years, we here at Leonard and Sons have celebrated a lot of St. Patrick’s Days and would encourage everyone to celebrate this gathering of proud Irish heritage in America’s friendliest city. However, you don’t need to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day if you want to catch some luck. In fact, all you need to do is schedule a chimney inspection with Leonard and Sons. Born from a tradition that is hundreds of years old, a visit from one of our chimney sweeps will bring a blessing of good health to your home and your family.
The History of Chimney Sweeps
The first fireplaces are thought to have been invented in early Roman times when homeowners switched from using fire pits in the center of a room to a more isolated fireplace along a wall in the home. This meant that your fire was less in the way and therefore safer. Fireplaces were used by other cultures, but it wasn’t until the 1500s that fireplace usage really took off in England. Although people in England had fireplaces before this time, they were only installed in homes that could afford one. The uptick in fireplace construction was fueled by two things. First, homes were starting to be built with better building materials. Homes made of brick and stone were a lot less likely to catch on fire than homes mainly built from wood and straw. Second, England’s cool climate made fireplaces an attractive addition to any home. With this rise in fireplace usage came a need for someone to sweep out your fireplace periodically. This is when chimney sweeping really started taking off as a profession.
In 1662, the English Parliament passed a hearth tax which imposed a tax on a household for every hearth they owned. To avoid paying this tax, many homeowners would try to hide the fact that they had multiple hearths by connecting all of them to one chimney. In fact, sometimes multiple homes would share a chimney to avoid paying this tax. This meant that many chimney flues would often become a maze of winding passageways within a home. At around the same time, many people started using coal as their main source of fuel over wood. The use of coal meant that creosote would build up more quickly within the chimney. This coupled with the maze-like structure of chimney systems meant that chimney sweeps were needed more than ever. In fact, chimney sweeps were so busy, to save time they would clean a line of houses all at once, jumping from one roof to the next on a single service call. Once a chimney sweep was finished servicing a residence, the air coming out of the fireplace would be noticeably cleaner and fresher. Because of this, chimney sweeps became a symbol of good luck on a household for bringing good health into a home.
Unfortunately, there is a darker side to the history of chimney sweeps as well. Traversing the tight, maze-like chimneys in England was often difficult for grown men, so children were often used to sweep chimneys. These children were subjected to horrible working conditions. They would often work from sunrise to sunset and be forced to scrape the coal of the insides of flues as they traversed the maze-like structures. This would lead to children sometimes getting trapped inside the flue where they could be stuck for hours before being able to get out.
Many people realized that this was a cruel practice and it motivated politicians, authors, and other celebrities of the time to lobby for child labor laws. In 1864, Parliament passed the ‘Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers’, which made it illegal to make children serve as a chimney sweep. This was one of the most important child labor laws created and it lead to many other child protection laws within other industries. Besides protecting children, this law also forced chimney sweeps to develop much-needed technologies to improve the chimney sweeping process. An inventor in the 1800s named Joseph Glass is credited for inventing many of the brushes and cane designs that chimney sweeps still use today.
The Luck Of The Chimney Sweep
Aside from bringing clean air and a safer chimney system to the homes that chimney sweeps visited, there are other stories that lend the chimney sweep their luck.
It is said that back in 1066, King William of Great Britain was about to be trampled by an out of control carriage when a chimney sweep pulled him out of the way and into safety. Believing that the sweep had brought him good luck, the King declared all chimney sweeps as lucky. He also invited the sweep to his daughter’s wedding. A similar tale took place in the 1700s with King George the lll. While the King was out riding in a precession one day, an angry dog approached, scaring the King’s horse. Losing control of the horse, it seemed that the King would fall, but a nearby chimney sweep stepped in and was able to calm the horse. The grateful King thanked him and declared chimney sweeps to be lucky.
Whether you believe, like King William, that inviting a chimney sweep to your wedding will bring good luck to the marriage, or if you believe that general good luck and fortune come with a regular cleaning, chimney sweeps offer services that give you a healthier and “luckier” home.
Chimney Sweeping Today
Chimney sweeping is a much safer and cleaner job than it was in the past. We here at Leonard and Sons go to safe work courses developed for chimney sweeps that are hosted by the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). These safety courses help us to make sure that our work practices are not only safe for our workers but also safe for our clients as well. At Leonard and Sons, we go the extra step and make sure that our chimney sweeps are CSIA certified, meaning they have taken enough coursework and have been put through rigorous safety testing to earn this certification. We feel that this brings value to both us and our customers.
Bring a blessing of good health to your home by scheduling a chimney sweeping with Leonard and Sons today. You can reach us at 847-658-7659 or check us out online to schedule an appointment with one of our chimney experts today! We look forward to serving you and have a lucky St. Patrick’s Day!