In 1666, three-fourths of the great city of London was nearly burned to the ground. This disaster came to be known as the Great Fire of London. One of the main reasons this great fire happened is because the citizens of London weren’t keeping their chimneys cleaned properly. After this awful happening, the people of London started to make smaller chimneys to prevent another fire. Adults tried to keep their chimneys clean, but their structure didn’t allow them to fit inside the chimneys.
Because they couldn’t fit they started to put children to clean their chimneys and these children came to be known as Victorian Chimney Sweepers.A victorian chimney sweeper is a poor person that was forced to clean chimneys to make a living. Chimney sweepers were children, mainly boys and not adults. Most of the boys were kidnapped or orphans and they were as young as 3-4 years old. This was happening all around Europe but it was mainly happening in the United Kingdom in the late 1700s and the 1880s. Being a chimney sweeper in the 1800s was considered one of the most dangerous jobs for children. Children that were orphans were picked up from foster care, put into slavery, and then thrown back into the street once they grew too big. There were a lot of risks with chimney sweeping.
Children would sometimes get stuck from how small the space was. By the time children were around the ages of 9 or 10 they had outgrown the job. The adults in charge of the children that were put to clean chimneys were known as Master Sweeps. The master sweeps would underfeed their apprentices so that they would be thin to continue going down the chimneys. The conditions for the apprentices were hard.
At times, they would sleep on the soot and were rarely bathed. There are a lot of cases where the boys choked or suffocated from inhaling the dust while trying to clean the chimneys. Boys often got stuck form how small the chimney was or they would fall from climbing the awful chimney stacks.People were starting to notice how out of hand child chimney sweeping was getting so they started to campaign for years to get child chimney sweeping to stop. In 1840, The Chimney Sweepers and Chimney Regulation Act was established. Under this act, it was not legal to make someone or even allow person under the age of 21 to climb up or into a chimney for the purpose of cleaning it.
Even with this act people were still making children clean chimneys illegally. In 1875, the death of a boy named George Brewster sparked the ban of child chimney sweeping. The Chimney Sweepers Act 1875 made sure that all chimney sweeps had to be registered with the police.