Web Page 1118
3rd February 2013
Top Picture: A Sweep from the mid 1960’s
Bottom Picture: So much cleaner today!
One thing that we very rarely see any more is the Chimney Sweep. But when we were kids it was really something to get excited about? As a little boy I can remember waiting by the gate for the sweep to arrive. I would eagerly await the arrival of his dark green van and watched this thin and blackened man with his poles, brushes and blankets unload everything and carry it into the house ready to start the operation. The rooms whose chimneys were to be swept had previously been cleared, the mantelpiece and fireplace had all the knick knacks removed and the remaining furniture was covered with dust sheets and pages of the Daily Mirror were laid out on the floor from the front door to the fireplaces to be swept.
After the initial setting up, the sweep would slowly put together the poles and after fixing the backing sheet to the fireplace would begin to slowly feed the brush and poles up the chimney. By this time I was always told that if I stood well back, and did not get in the way, I could watch. Then at the appointed time I was told that I could rush outside and wait for the brush to pop out the top of the chimney. Oh what great joy! There’s something about it you can’t explain. I guess the chimney was a young persons mystery, a place never visited, a place where children used to be sent to hand brush if your chimney was big enough. A very dark and mysterious place and also of course it was where Santa Claus would have to drop through with his presents on Christmas Day and I never did wonder why his clothes never got dirty!
Sixty plus years ago the biggest development in chimney sweeping was the introduction of a giant Hoover which replaced the mountains of blankets and soot filled sacks which still didn’t stop your carpet throwing up soot every time you walked on it for days afterwards. When fitted up on went the Hoover and out went the cat and for 20 minutes or so, our fireplaces got their yearly clean out.
When the sweeping was completed there was always that strange smutty smell which is something which has been lost from the modern house which does not have chimneys.
Occasionally the sweep would inform Mum or Dad that there was some loose cement coming down with the soot, which meant that sometime in the near future we would have to get a builder in to correct the loose surfaces. But normally the chimneys passed all their tests though maybe more Kos Fire Cement would be needed to stick the firebricks back together once more!
It was not long after things had been cleaned and put back before the cat gingerly made its way back to the hearthrug and took up its usual place sleeping about three inches away from the fire! Winter in the 1950’s had its bad parts, but to come down the stairs in the morning to that comforting smell of an open fire was always a sign of a happy home!
For a time one could buy a tin of a preparation called ‘A Chimney Devi’l which, by lighting a wick in the top sent some form of acrid smoke up the chimney and was supposed to loosen and dislodge all the soot without the need to employ a chimney sweep. As I remember my father tried it once and it made such a mess that it took days to clear up the mess and my mother told him he was not to use it again and he never did. Apart from that he was left with bags of soot that he had to dispose of somehow. I don’t know how he did it, as he did not have a car at the time, or even a bike, so I suppose he must have dug it into the garden somewhere.
Those were the days but I don’t think that I would like to do without my central heating now! But just a couple of things you might remember from those coal-fired days. The coalman delivering sacks of coal on his back, the buckets of ash that had to be cleared out each morning, chopped fire wood, fire lighters and the most dangerous of all trying to draw the fire up with a newspaper and we won’t even think about chimney fires!
It was always regarded as being lucky to have a chimney sweep at a wedding, I don’t know why and over the years I cannot ever remember attending a wedding where there has been a sweep present.
Stay in touch
I went to a small private school before I came to Manor Court it was called Walkers College, it was situated in a road off Elm Grove, Southsea. When I visited Portsmouth and Southsea last year we tried to find the road without success. Has anyone else heard of it and perhaps they might remember the road. The Headmistress was a Mrs Lane. I still have my school reports unfortunately they do not have an address on them.
News and Views:
On this day 3rd February 1960-1965
On 03/02/1960 the number one single was Why - Anthony Newley and the number one album was South Pacific Soundtrack. The top rated TV show was not listed and the box office smash was Some Like It Hot. A pound of today's money was worth £13.68 and Burnley were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 03/02/1961 the number one single was Are you Lonesome Tonight? - Elvis Presley and the number one album was GI Blues - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was No Hiding Place (AR) and the box office smash was One Hundred and One Dalmations. A pound of today's money was worth £13.25 and Tottenham Hotspur were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 03/02/1962 the number one single was The Young Ones - Cliff Richard & the Shadows and the number one album was Blue Hawaii - Elvis Presley. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was Lawrence of Arabia. A pound of today's money was worth £12.89 and Ipswich Town were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions.
On 03/02/1963 the number one single was Diamonds - Jet Harris & Tony Meehan and the number one album was Summer Holiday - Cliff Richard & the Shadows. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Great Escape. A pound of today's money was worth £12.64 and Everton were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was Liz Taylor films Cleopatra.
On 09/02/1964 the number one single was Needles & Pins - Searchers and the number one album was With the Beatles - The Beatles. The top rated TV show was Steptoe & Son (BBC) and the box office smash was Dr Strangelove. A pound of today's money was worth £12.24 and Liverpool were on the way to becoming the Season's Division 1 champions. The big news story of the day was USSR tops medals at Winter Olympics.
On 09/02/1965 the number one single was You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin' - Righteous Brothers and the number one album was Rolling Stones Number 2 - The Rolling Stones. The top rated TV show was Coronation Street (Granada) and the box office smash was The Sound of Music. A pound of today's money was worth £11.69 and Manchester United