Historically there were two routes into chimney sweeping. 1, apprentices such as the chimney climbing boys or 2, from father to son passed down knowledge through the generations. This still happens to a degree today and many enter the profession because they fell into the job via family association.
Things have changed a great deal in more recent times with apprenticeships being almost unheard of and many business that have started within the last ten years meaning that did not join the trade through the hand-me-down method. People are now becoming chimney sweeps by choice and not just the stereotypical ex mine worker, many are choosing sweeping as their chosen profession this is not exclusive to men in fact many Women are proud to call themselves chimney sweeps. This was unheard of even thirty years ago.
It is my belief that many people now join the profession because its image has changed from that of a grizzly Victorian horror story with a guaranteed premature death to something much more modern and attractive to a new generation. There is also a false perception of easy money combined with ease of access/entry when compared to other trades. There is also a finite number of working solid fuel chimneys here in the UK but don’t worry we won’t begin that debate here as that is a blog subject for another day.
With the UK economy struggling under the weight of Brexit and another unspoken recession working people are often looking for ways to `top up` their income and sweeping is one of those easy to access markets that seem to fit the bill.
Camaraderie, Chimney sweeping used to be a very lonely job without work colleagues, Today with the advent of the internet and more recently social channels, sweeps from all over the world are connected. We share knowledge, stories, friendship and a great camaraderie. Our trade is one of a very few where worldwide functions such as Santa Maria Marjorie are embraced by sweeps from all over the globe.
Finally I think that people associate themselves with the eccentricity or quirkiness of the trade, they like being associated with the clichés and are happy for people to judge them as a `Chimney Sweep` along with the Dick Van Dyke, old bamboo and Guvner comments.
So we have briefly covered why some of us become chimney sweeps but why do we remain chimney sweeps when the reality of how hard the job is and how little the gross income is?
Well in a nutshell it is fun, chimney sweeps to the most part enjoy greatly going to work each day. We meet an eclectic mixture of customers all of which have a fascination with fire.
Our job carries a lot of job satisfaction as we undertake two massive roles, these are: Consumer Safety and fire prevention. In the basic process of our job we must remove flammable products from the flue and ensure the poisonous gasses can escape the chimney unimpeded. In doing so we know that we are serving a great purpose and both people and properties are safer because of our undetaking. There are very few jobs that have such powerful job satisfaction.
So let’s look at the pros and cons starting with the negatives.
- The job is still dangerous and carries significant health risks
- The market is partially saturated and the potential work declines each year
- Dirty and smelly
- Very long hours in the winter and sitting on the couch at home in the summer
- Limited annual income
- The cliché
- The job carries very good job satisfaction
- We perform important safety checks
- Huge Camaraderie
- The Cliché
If you look at the job holistically the cons outweigh the pros however those pros are important to us sweeps. We are a cheerful bunch who to the most part love our jobs, take pride in our work and revel in the story telling and tales from colleagues and associates. If we get the chance to dress up in our sweeps uniforms at a wedding, social event or get together we jump at the chance.
Have a safe, Prosperous and fun chimney sweeping season fellow sweeps.