Chimney Sweeper Boys

Sharon Lathan

Sharon Lathan is the best-selling author of The Darcy Saga, a ten-volume sequel series to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

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Milwaukee Chimney

Holy cow. I run a small chimney company and had no idea of the origins of that stuff. I feel terrible about the association, but things are obviously much different now. Also interesting fact about “lighting a fire” under their butts. I’ve definitely used that on my own kids lol.


There was a society for the prevention of cruelty to horses before laws were passed to protect the young chimney sweepers. Brushes were available. Many of the boys contracted a cancer that targeted their genitals . This was mainly because the soot would get in their clothes or around their scrotum and they didn’t have adequate facilities for washing and no one told them to wash there. Many of the chimneys weren’t straight up and down but branched off in a sort of Y formation which was even more difficult for the children to navigate.
It isn’t surprising that many died; what is surprising is that many survived.
Children worked in mills because they were small enough to get under the looms. Several lost a hand or worse because the looms were automated. They were big and moving rapidly and could kill or maim a child.
Many women as well as children worked in the mines. Some of these were little move than a mole tunnel which they had to transverse naked and on their stomachs. It took a long hard fight to get regulations that outlawed such work as sending children up chimneys, under looms, and down mines.

Sue Barr

I had just finished researching a bit about chimney sweeps and their ‘Sweep Boys’ for a brief vignette in my latest novel. Your timing was impeccable. Such a sad life most children had who were not born into any type of wealth.

Michelle F.

This reminds me of a mystery I listened to on C.D.: The Yard by Alex Grecian. There was a scene with a kid stuck in a chimney (can’t remember if he was alive or a dead body!). That was when I first heard of children being chimney sweeps. Then there was a part in the book where children worked in mines.

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