Chimney sweeps have been symbols of good luck for centuries, but why? And what does that have to do with pigs? What invention replaced the use of climbing boys to clean chimneys? The history of chimney sweeps is varied and, unfortunately, there are skeletons in the closet. But here we look at the top five bits of chimney trivia on the bright side.
Chimney Sweeps are Considered Good Luck
Did you know that in parts of the world it has long been considered good luck to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day? It’s even more fortunate to shake the hand of a chimney sweep or for the bride to be kissed by a sweep on the wedding day. One legend says that this superstition got its start because of a love story. A chimney sweep tumbled off a roof, but rather than falling to the ground, he hung upside down because his foot got caught on the gutter. A young woman who had promised to wed another man pulled the chimney sweep to safety, and they fell in love and eventually got married. Chimney sweeps have been a symbol of good luck for centuries; and one reason was because coal used to be burned instead of firewood, the need for cleaner air became critical, and chimney sweeps met that need.
The legend is also told that in about 1066 King William of Britain was rescued from sure death by a chimney sweep that pushed him out of the way of an oncoming horse and carriage. One of the King’s rewards was to invite the chimney sweep to his daughter’s wedding. It has been considered good fortune to have a chimney sweep at your wedding ever since that time. But, actually, it is considered good luck to have a chimney sweep at any special occasion or just as a visitor in your home.
There was also a tradition long ago in which chimney sweeps carried pigs down the streets of their city on New Year’s Day. People would pay the chimney sweep a small amount of money and then pull a hair from the pig while making a wish.
Top Hats and Tails
Why did early chimney sweeps wear top hats and tails? There are a couple of different explanations. In one, the legend about a chimney sweep saving the King of Britain is again involved. One of the king’s rewards was to declare chimney sweeps lucky and allow them to wear top hats, which until that time had been a privilege reserved for royalty and the gentry.
It is also commonly told that the top hats and tails chimney sweeps wore were actually
cast-offs that funeral directors threw out. The garments were practical, being black, and they gave the filthy but necessary profession of chimney sweeping a more respectable image.
Whale Bones and Chimney Sweeping
When the darkest chapter of chimney sweeping ended in England, which was the use of climbing boys to clean chimneys, a man named Joseph Glass invented the original non-human form of cleaning equipment. His cane and brush design was so outstanding and effective; it is still in use today. A major difference between now and then was that whale bones were originally used to make the chimney cleaning brushes and now nylon or polypropylene are used.
Every year there is an international gathering of chimney sweeps, referred to as spazzacamini, in which climbing boys from centuries ago are honored in Santa Maria Maggiore, Italy. European chimney sweeps have kept up this tradition for decades. They celebrate the tremendous progress in the industry since the days when small boys were forced to work long hours climbing up chimneys with chimney brushes. The children lived extremely difficult lives and often succumbed to many different associated hazards. The Italian word “spazzacamini” means “chimney sweep.”
Largest Chimney Sweep in the World
Standing on the side of the road in McPherson, Kansas, is the largest chimney sweep on the planet. Formerly a baker holding a wooden spoon, the huge chimney sweep was bought and renovated by Vaughn Juhnk, the owner of a chimney sweep company.
We are proud to be professional chimney sweeps, and we think we are good luck, in a way. After all, a clean and properly functioning chimney helps keep your family and home safe from potential dangers associated with fuel-burning. Call us today for an appointment to inspect and/or clean your chimney.
Northeastern Chimney, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110