London Labour and the London Poor, volume 2

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Sweepers of Old, and the Climbing Boys.


FORMERLY the chimneys used to be cleansed by the house servants, for a person could easily stand erect in the huge old-fashioned constructions, and thrust up a broom as far as his strength would permit. Sometimes, however, straw was kindled at the mouth of the chimney, and in that way the soot was consumed or brought down to the ground by the action of the fire. But that there were also regular chimney-sweepers in the latter part of the century is unquestionable; for in the days of the James and Charles, poor Piedmontese, and more especially Savoyards, resorted to England for the express purpose. How long they laboured in this vocation is unknown. The Savoyards, indeed, were then the general showmen and sweeps of Europe, and so they are still in some of the cities of Italy and France.

As regards the introduction of English children into chimneys—the establishment of the use of climbing boys—nothing appears, according to the representations made to Parliament on several occasions, to be known; and little attention seems to have been paid to the condition of these infants—some were but little better—until about , when the benevolent Jonas Hanway, who is said, but not uncontradictedly, to have been the person who regularly used an umbrella in the streets of London, called public attention to the matter. In Mr. Hanway and others brought a bill into Parliament for the better protection of the climbing boys, requiring, among other provisions, all master sweepers to be licensed, and the names and ages of all their apprentices registered. The , however, rejected this bill, and the George III., c. , was passed in preference. The chief alterations sought to be effected by the new Act were, that no sweeper should have more than apprentices, and that no boy should be apprenticed at a tenderer age than years. Previously there were no restrictions in either of those respects.

These provisions were, however, very generally violated. By of those "flaws" or omissions, so very common and so little creditable to our legislation, it was found that there was no prohibition to a sweeper's employing his own children at what age he pleased; and "some," or "several," for I find both words used, employed their sons, and occasionally their daughters, in chimney climbing at the ages of , , and even between and years! The children of others, too, were continually being apprenticed at illegal ages, for no inquiry was made into the lad's age beyond the statement of his parents, or, in the case of parish apprentices, beyond the (in those days) not more trustworthy word of the overseers. Thus boys of were apprenticed—for apprenticeship was almost universal—as boys of , by their parents; while parish officers and magistrates consigned the workhouse orphans, as a thing of course, to the starvation and tyranny which they must have known were very often in store for them when apprenticed to sweepers.

The following evidence was adduced before Parliament on the subject of infant labour in this trade:—

Mr. John Cook, a master sweeper, then of and Kentish-town, the who persevered in the use of the machine years before its use was compulsory, stated that it was common for parents in the business to employ their own children, under the age of , in climbing; and that as far as he knew, he himself was only between and when he "came to it;" and that almost all master sweepers had got it in their bills that they kept "small boys for register-stoves, and such like as that."

Mr. T. Allen, another master sweeper, was between and when articled to an uncle.

Mr. B. M. Forster, a private gentleman, a member of the "Committee to promote the Superseding of Climbing Boys," said, "Some are put to the


employment very young; instance of which occurred to a child in the neighbourhood of , who was put to the trade at and a quarter years, or thereabouts. The father of a child in Whitechapel told me last week, that his son began climbing when he was years and months old. I have heard of some still younger, but only from vague report."

This sufficiently proves at what infantine years children were exposed to toils of exceeding painfulness. The smaller and the more slenderly formed the child, the more valuable was he for the sweeping of flues, the interior of some of them, to be ascended and swept, being but inches square.

I have mentioned the employment of female children in the very unsuitable labour of climbing chimneys. The following is all the information given on the subject.

Mr. Tooke was asked, "Have you ever heard of female children being so employed?" and replied, "I have heard of cases at Hadley, Barnet, Windsor, and Uxbridge; and I know a case at Witham, near Colchester, of that sort."

Mr. B. M. Foster said, "Another circumstance, which has not been mentioned to the Committee, is, that there are several little girls employed; there are of the name of Morgan at Windsor, daughters of the chimney-sweeper another instance at Uxbridge, and at Brighton, and at Whitechapel (which was some years ago), and at Headley near Barnet, and Witham in Essex, and elsewhere." He then stated, on being asked, "Do you not think that girls were employed from their physical form being smaller and thinner than boys, and therefore could get up narrower flues?" "The reason that I have understood was, because their parents had not a sufficient number of boys to bring up to the business." Mr. Foster did not know the ages of these girls.

The inquiry by a Committee of the , which led more than any other to the prohibition of this infant and yet painful labour in chimney-sweeping, was held in , and they recommended the "preventing the further use of climbing boys in sweeping of chimneys;" a recommendation not carried into effect until . The matter was during the interval frequently agitated in Parliament, but there were no later investigations by Committees.

I will adduce, specifically, the grievances, according to the Report of , of the climbing boys; but will present the following extract from the evidence of Mr. W. Tooke, a gentleman who, in accordance with the Hon. Henry Grey Bennet, M.P., and others, exerted himself on the behoof of the climbing boys. When he gave his evidence, Mr. Tooke was the secretary to a society whose object was to supersede the necessity of employing climbing boys. He said:—

In the year 1800, the Society for Bettering the Condition of the Poor took up the subject, but little or nothing appears to have been done upon that occasion, except that the most respectable master chimney-sweepers entered into an associa- tion and subscription for promoting the cleanliness and health of the boys in their respective services. The Institution of which I am treasurer, and which is now existing, was formed in February, 1803. In consequence of an anonymous advertisement, a large meeting was held at the London Coffee House, and the Society was established; immediate steps were then taken to ascertain the state of the trade; inspectors were appointed to give an account of all the master chimneysweepers within the bills of mortality, their general character, their conduct towards their apprentices, and the number of those apprentices. It was ascertained, that the total number of master chimney-sweepers, within the bills of mortality, might be estimated at 200, who had among them 500 apprentices; that not above 20 of those masters were reputable tradesmen in easy circumstances, who appeared generally to conform to the provisions of the Act; and which 20 had, upon an average, from four to five apprentices each. We found about 90 of an inferior class of master chimney-sweepers who averaged three apprentices each, and who were extremely negligent both of the health, morals, and education of those apprentices; and about 90, the remainder of the 200 masters, were a class of chimneysweepers recently journeymen, who took up the trade because they had no other resource; they picked up boys as they could, who lodged with themselves in huts, sheds, and cellars, in the outskirts of the town, occasionally wandering into the villages round, where they slept on soot-bags, and lived in the grossest filth.

The grievances I have spoken of were thus summed up by the Parliamentary Committee. After referring to the ill-usage and hardships sustained by the climbing boys (the figures being now introduced for the sake of distinctness) it is stated:—

It is in evidence that (1) they are stolen from" [and sold by] "their parents, and inveigled out of workhouses; (2) that in order to conquer the natural repugnance of the infants to ascend the narrow and dangerous chimneys to clean which their labour is required, blows are used; that pins are forced into their feet by the boy that follows them up the chimney, in order to compel them to ascend it, and that lighted straw has been applied for that purpose; (3) that the children are subject to sores and bruises, and wounds and burns on their thighs, knees, and elbows; and that it will require many months before the extremities of the elbows and knees become sufficiently hard to resist the excoriations to which they are at first subject.

. With regard to the —for there was often a difficulty in procuring climbing boys—I find mention in the evidence, as of a matter, but not a very frequent matter, of notoriety. stolen child was sold to a master sweeper for Mr. G. Revely said:—

I wish to state to the Committee that case in particular, because it comes home to the better sort of persons in higher life. It seems that the child, upon being asked various questions, had been taken away: the child was questioned how he came into that situation; he said all that he could recollect was (as I heard it told at that time) that he and his sister, with another brother, were together somewhere, but he could not tell where; but not being able to run so well as the other two, he was caught by a woman and carried away and was sold, and came afterwards into the hands of a chimney-sweeper. He was not afterwards restored to his family, and the mystery was never unravelled; but he was advertised, and a lady took charge of him.

This child, in 1804, was forced up a chimney at Bridlington in Yorkshire, by a big boy, the younger boy being apparently but four years old. He fell and bruised his legs terribly against the grate. The Misses Auckland of Boynton, who had heard of the child, and went to see him, became interested by his manners, and they took him home with them; the chimney-sweeper, who perhaps got alarmed, being glad to part with him. "Soon after he got to Boynton, the seat of Sir George Strickland, a plate with something to eat was brought him; on seeing a silver fork he was quite delighted, and said, 'Papa had such forks as those.' He also said the carpet in the drawing-room was like papa's; the housekeeper showed him a silver watch, he asked what sort it was—'Papa's was a gold watch;' he then pressed the handle and said, 'Papa's watch rings, why does not yours?' Sir George Strickland, on being told this circumstance, showed him a gold repeater, the little boy pressed the spring, and when it struck, he jumped about the room, saying, 'Papa's watch rings so.' At night, when he was going to bed, he said he could not go to bed until he had said his prayers; he then repeated the Lord's Prayer, almost perfectly. The account he gave of himself was that he was gathering flowers in his mamma's garden, and that the woman who sold him to the sweeper, came in and asked him if he liked riding? He said, 'Yes,' and she told him he should ride with her. She put him on a horse, after which they got into a vessel, and the sails were put up, 'and away we went.' He had no recollection of his name, or where he lived, and was too young to think his father could have any other name than that of papa. He started whenever he heard a servant in the family at Boynton called George, and looked as if he expected to see somebody he knew; on inquiry, he said he had an uncle George, whom he loved dearly. He says his mamma is dead, and it is thought his father may be abroad. From many things he says, he seems to have lived chiefly with an uncle and aunt, whom he invariably says were called Mr. and Mrs. Flembrough. From various circumstances, it is thought impossible he should be the child of the woman who sold him, his manners being 'very civilized,' quite those of a child well educated; his dialect is good, and that of the south of England. This little boy, when first discovered, was conjectured to be about four years old, and is described as having beautiful black eyes and eyelashes, a high nose, and a delicate soft skin.

Mr. J. Harding, a master sweeper, had a fellow apprentice who had been enticed away from his parents. "It is a case of common occurrence," he said, "for children stolen, to be employed in this way. Yes, and children in particular are enticed out of workhouses: there are a great many who come out of workhouses."

The following cases were also submitted to the Committee:—

A poor woman had been obliged by sickness to go into an hospital, and while she was there her child was stolen from her house, taken into Staffordshire, and there apprenticed to a chimneysweeper. By some happy circumstance she learned his fate; she followed him, and succeeded in rescuing him from his forlorn situation. Another child, who was an orphan, was tricked into following the same wretched employment by a chimneysweeper, who gave him a shilling, and made him believe that by receiving it he became his apprentice; the poor boy, either discovering or suspecting that he had been deceived, anxiously endeavoured to speak to a magistrate who happened to come to the house in which he was sweeping chimneys, but his master watched him so closely that he could not succeed. He at last contrived to tell his story to a blind soldier, who determined to right the poor boy, and by great exertions succeeded in procuring him his liberty.

It was in country places, however, that the stealing and kidnapping of children was the most frequent, and the threat of "the sweeps will get you" was often held out, to deter children from wandering. These stolen infants, it is stated, were usually conveyed to some distance by the vagrants who had secured them, and sold to some master sweeper, being apprenticed as the child of the vendors, for it was difficult for sweepers in thinlypeopled places to get a supply of climbing boys. It was shown about the time of the Parliamentary inquiry, in the course of a trial at the Lancaster assizes, that a boy had been apprenticed to a sweeper by travelling tinkers, man and woman, who informed him that the child was stolen from another "traveller," miles away, who was "too fond of it to make it a sweep." The of the child was not mentioned.

Respecting the sale of children to be apprentices to sweepers, Mr. Tooke was able to state that, although in , the practice had very much diminished of late, parents in many instances still This sum was generally paid under the guise of an apprentice fee, but it was known to be and was called a "sale," for the parents, real or nominal, never interfered with the master subsequently, but left the infant to its fate.

. I find the following account of the

The boy in the instance went for a month, or any term agreed upon, "on trial," or "to see how he would suit for the business." During this period of probation he was usually well treated and well fed (whatever the character of the master), with little to do beyond running


errands, and observing the mode of work of the experienced climbers. When, however, he was "bound" as an apprentice, he was put with another lad who had been for some time at the business. The new boy was sent up the chimney, and immediately followed by the other, who instructed him how to ascend. This was accomplished by the pressure of the knees and the elbows against the sides of the flue. By pressing the knees tightly the child managed to raise his arms somewhat higher, and then by pressing his elbows in like manner he contrived to draw up his legs, and so on. The inside of the flue presented a smooth surface, and there were no inequalities where the fingers or toes could be inserted. Should the young beginner fall, he was sure to light on the shoulders of the boy beneath him, who always kept himself firmly fixed in expectation of such a mishap, and then the novice had to commence anew; in this manner the twain reached the top by degrees, sweeping down the soot, and descended by the same method. This practice was very severe, especially on new boys, whose knees and elbows were torn by the pressure and the slipping down continually—the skin being stripped off, and frequently breaking out in frightful sores, from the constant abrasions, and from the soot and dirt getting into them.

In his evidence before Parliament in (for there had been previous inquiries), Mr. Cook gave an account of the training of these boys, and on being asked:—"Do the elbows and knees of the boys, when they begin the business, become very sore, and afterwards get callous, and are those boys employed in sweeping chimneys during the soreness of those parts?" answered, "It depends upon the sort of master they have got; some are obliged to put them to work sooner than others; you must keep them a little at it, or they will never learn their business, even during the sores." He stated further, that the skin broke generally, and that the boys could not ascend chimneys during the sores without great pain. The way that I learn boys is," he continued, "to put some cloths over their elbows and over their knees till they get the nature of the chimney—till they get a little used to it: we call it them, and then we take them off, and they get very little grazed indeed after they have got the art; but very few will take that trouble. Some boys' flesh is far worse than others, and it takes more time to harden them." He was then asked:—"Do those persons still continue to employ them to climb chimneys?" and the answer was: "Some do; it depends upon the character of the master. None of them of that class keep them till they get well; none. They are obliged to climb with those sores upon them. I never had of my own apprentices do that." This system of padding, however, was but little practised; but in what proportion it practised, unless by the respectable masters, who were then but few in number, the Parliamentary papers, the only information on the subject now attainable, do not state. The inference is, that the majority, out of but of these masters, with some or apprentices, did treat them well, and what was so accounted. The customary way of training these boys, then, was such as I have described; some even of the better masters, whose boys were in the comparison well lodged and fed, and "sent to the Sunday school" (which seems to have comprised all needful education), considered "padding and such like" to be "newfangled nonsense."

I may add also, that although the boy carried up a brush with him, it was used but occasionally, only when there were "turns" or defects in the chimney, the soot being brought down by the action of the shoulders and limbs. The climber wore a cap to protect his eyes and mouth from the soot, and a sort of flannel tunic, his feet, legs, and arms being bare. Some of these lads were surprisingly quick. man told me that, when in his prime as a climbing boy, he could reach the top of a chimney about as quickly as a person could go up stairs to the attics.

The following is from the evidence of Mr. Cook, frequently cited as an excellent master:—

What mode do you adopt to get the boy to go up the chimney in the first instance?—We persuade him as well as we can; we generally practise him in one of our own chimneys first; one of the boys who knows the trade goes up behind him, and when he has practised it perhaps ten times, though some will require twenty times, they generally can manage it. The boy goes up with him to keep him from falling; after that, the boy will manage to go up with himself, after going up and down several times with one under him: we do this, because if he happens to make a slip he will be caught by the other.

Do you find many boys show repugnance to go up at first?—Yes, most of them.

And if they resist and reject, in what way do you force them up?—By telling them we must take them back again to their father and mother, and give them up again; and their parents are generally people who cannot maintain them.

So that they are afraid of going back to their parents for fear of being starved?—Yes; they go through a deal of hardship before they come to our trade.

Did you use any more violent means?—Sometimes a rod.

Did you ever hear of straw being lighted under them?—Never.

You never heard of any means being made use of, except being beat and being sent home?—No; no other.

You are aware, of course, that those means being gentle or harsh must depend very much upon the character of the individual master?—It does.

Of course you must know that there are persons of harsh and cruel disposition; have you not often heard of masters treating their apprentices with great cruelty, particularly the little boys, in forcing them to go up those small flues, which the boys were unwilling to ascend?—Yes; I have forced up many a one myself.

By what means?—By threatenings, and by giving them a kick or a slap.

It was also stated that the journeymen used the boys with greater cruelty than did the masters —indeed a delegated tyranny is often the worst— that for very little faults they kicked and slapped the children, and sometimes flogged them with a cat, "made of rope, hard at each end, and as thick as your thumb."

Mr. John Fisher, a master chimney-sweeper, said:—"Many masters, are very severe with their children. To make them go up the chimneys I have seen them make them strip themselves naked; I have been obliged myself to go up a chimney naked."

As respects the cruelties of driving boys up chimneys by kindling straw beneath their feet, or thrusting pins into the soles of their feet, I find the following statements given on the authority of B. M. Forster, Esq., a private gentleman residing in Walthamstow:—

A lad was ordered to sweep a chimney at Wandsworth; he came down after endeavouring to ascend, and this occurred several times before he gave up the point; at last the journeyman took some straw or hay, and lighted it under him to drive him up: when he endeavoured to get up the last time, he found there was a bar across the chimney, which he could not pass; he was obliged in consequence to come down, and the journeyman beat him so cruelly, to use his own expression, that he could not stand for a fortnight.

In the whole city of Norwich I could find only nine climbing boys, two of whom I questioned on many particulars; one was with respect to the manner in which they are taught to climb; they both agreed in that particular, that a larger boy was sent up behind them to prick their feet, if they did not climb properly. I purposely avoided mentioning about pricking them with pins, but asked them how they did it; they said that they thrust the pins into the soles of their feet. A third instance occurred at Walthamstow; a man told me that some he knew had been taught in the same way; I believe it to be common, but I cannot state any more instances from authority.

. On the subject of the , to which chimney-sweepers in their apprenticeships were not only exposed, but, as it were, condemned, Mr. R. Wright, a surgeon, on being examined before the Committee, said, "I shall begin with I am well persuaded that the deformity of the spine, legs, arms, &c., of chimney-sweepers, generally, if not wholly, proceeds from the circumstance of their being obliged not only to go up chimneys at an age when their bones are in a soft and growing state, but likewise from their being compelled by their too merciless masters and mistresses to carry bags of soot (and those very frequently for a great length of distance and time) by far too heavy for their tender years and limbs. The knees and ancle joints mostly become deformed, in the instance, from the position they are obliged to put them in, in order to support themselves, not only while climbing up the chimney, but more particularly so in that of coming down, when they rest solely on the lower extremities.

Sore eyes and eyelids, are the next to be considered. Chimney-sweepers are very subject to inflammation of the eyelids, and not unfrequently weakness of sight, in consequence of such inflammation. This I attribute to the circumstance of the soot lodging on the eyelids, which first produces irritability of the part, and the constantly rubbing them with their dirty hands, instead of alleviating, increases the disease; for I have observed in a number of cases, when the patient has ceased for a time to follow the business, and of course the original cause has been removed, that with washing and keeping clean they were soon got well.

Sores, for the same reasons, are generally a long time in healing.

Cancer is another and a most formidable disease, which chimney-sweepers in particular are liable to, especially that of the scrotum; from which circumstance, by way of distinction, it is called the 'chimney-sweeper's cancer.' Of this sort of cancer I have seen several instances, some of which have been operated on; but, in general, they are apt to let them go too far before they apply for relief. Cancers of the lips are not so general as cancers of the scrotum. I never saw but two instances of the former, and several of the latter.

The "chimney-sweep's cancer" was always lectured upon as a separate disease at Guy's and Bartholomew's Hospitals, and on the question being put to Mr. Wright: "Do the physicians who are intrusted with the care and management of those hospitals think that disease of such common occurrence, that it is necessary to make it a part of surgical education?"—he replied: "Most assuredly; I remember Mr. Cline and Mr. Cooper were particular on that subject; and having or cases of the kind in the hospital, it struck my mind very forcibly. With the permission of the Committee I will relate a case that occurred lately, which I had from of the pupils of St. Thomas's Hospital; he informed me that they recently had a case of a chimneysweeper's cancer, which was to have been operated on that week, but the man 'brushed' (to use their expression) or rather walked off; he would not submit to the operation: similar instances of which I have known myself. They dread so much the knife, in consequence of foolish persons telling them it is so formidable an operation, and that they will die under it. I conceive without the operation it is death; for cancers are of that nature that unless you extricate them entirely they will never be cured."

Of the chimney-sweeper's cancer, the following statement is given in the Report: "Mr. Cline informed your Committee by letter, that this disease is rarely seen in any other persons than chimney-sweepers, and in them cannot be considered as frequent; for during his practice in St. Thomas's hospital, for more than years, the number of those could not exceed . But your Committee have been informed that the dread of the operation which it is necessary to perform, deters many from submitting to it; and from the


evidence of persons engaged in the trade, it appears to be much more common than Mr. Cline seems to be aware of.

Cough and Asthma.—Chimney-sweepers are, from their being out at all hours and in all weathers, very liable to cough and inflammation of the chest.

Burns.—They are very subject to burns, from their being forced up chimneys while on fire, or soon after they have been on fire, and while overheated; and however they may cry out, their inhuman masters pay not the least attention, but compel them, too often with horrid imprecations, to proceed.

Stunted growth, in this unfortunate race of the community, is attributed, in a great measure, to their being brought into the business at a very early age.

To they were frequently liable in the pursuit of their callings, and sometimes these accidents were the being jammed or fixed, or, as it was called in the trade, "stuck," in narrow and heated flues, sometimes for hours, and until death.

Among these hapless lads were indeed many deaths from accidents, cruelty, privation, and exhaustion, but it does not appear that the number was ever ascertained. There were also many narrow escapes from dreadful deaths. I give instances of each:—

On Monday morning, the 29th of March, 1813, a chimney-sweeper of the name of Griggs, attended to sweep a small chimney in the brewhouse of Messrs. Calvert and Co., in Upper Thames-street; he was accompanied by one of his boys, a lad of about eight years of age, of the name of Thomas Pitt. The fire had been lighted as early as two o'clock the same morning, and was burning on the arrival of Griggs and his little boy at eight; the fire-place was small, and an iron pipe projected from the grate some little distance, into the flue; this the master was acquainted with (having swept the chimneys in the brewhouse for some years) and therefore had a tile or two taken from the roof, in order that the boy might descend the chimney. He had no sooner extinguished the fire than he suffered the lad to go down; and the consequence, as might be expected, was his almost immediate death, in a state, no doubt, of inexpressible agony. The flue was of the narrowest description, and must have retained heat sufficient to have prevented the child's return to the top, even supposing he had not approached the pipe belonging to the grate, which must have been nearly red-hot; this, however, was not clearly ascertained on the inquest, though the appearance of the body would induce an opinion that he had been unavoidably pressed against the pipe. Soon after his descent, the master, who remained on the top, was apprehensive that something had happened, and therefore desired him to come up; the answer of the boy was, 'I cannot come up, master; I must die here.' An alarm was given in the brewhouse, immediately, that he had stuck in the chimney, and a bricklayer who was at work near the spot at- tended, and after knocking down part of the brickwork of the chimney, just above the fire-place, made a hole sufficiently large to draw him through. A surgeon attended, but all attempts to restore life were ineffectual. On inspecting the body, various burns appeared; the fleshy part of the legs, and a great part of the feet more particularly, were injured; those parts, too, by which climbing boys most effectually ascend or descend chimneys, viz., the elbows and knees, seemed burnt to the bone; from which it must be evident that the unhappy sufferer made some attempts to return as soon as the horrors of his situation became apparent.

"In the improvement made some years since by the , in , a chimney, belonging to a Mr. Mildrum, a baker, was taken down, but before he began to bake, in order to see that the rest of the flue was clear, a boy was sent up, and after remaining some time, and not answering to the call of his master, another boy was ordered to descend from the top of the flue and to meet him half-way; but this being found impracticable, they opened the brickwork in the lower part of the flue, and found the firstmen- tioned boy dead. In the mean time the boy in the upper part of the flue called out for relief, saying, he was completely jammed in the rubbish and was unable to extricate himself. Upon this a bricklayer was employed with the utmost expedition, but he succeeded only in obtaining a lifeless body. The bodies were sent to St. Margaret's Church, , and a coroner's inquest, which sat upon them, returned the verdict—Accidental Death."

"In the beginning of the year , a chimneysweeper's boy being employed to sweep a chimney in Marsh-street, Walthamstow, in the house of Mr. Jeffery, carpenter, unfortunately, in his attempt to get down, stuck in the flue and was unable to extricate himself. Mr. Jeffery, being within hearing of the boy, immediately procured assistance. As the chimney was low, and the top of it easily accessible from without, the boy was taken out in about minutes, the chimney-pot and several rows of bricks having been previously removed; if he had remained in that dreadful situation many minutes longer, he must have died. His master was sent for, and he arrived soon after the boy had been released; he abused him for the accident, and, after striking him, sent him with a bag of soot to sweep another chimney. The child appeared so very weak when taken out that he could scarcely stand, and yet this wretched being, who had been up ever since o'clock, had before been sent by his master to Wanstead, which with his walk to Marsh-street made about miles."

"In , a boy employed in sweeping a chimney in Sheffield got wedged fast in of the flues, and remained in that situation near hours before he could be extricated, which was at length accomplished by pulling down part of the chimney."

On occasion a child remained above hours in some danger in a chimney, rather than


venture down and encounter his master's anger. The man was held to bail, which he could not procure.

As in the cases I have described (at Messrs. Calvert's, and in ), the verdict was usually "Accidental Death," or something equivalent.

It was otherwise, however, where wilful cruelty was proven.

The following case was a subject of frequent comment at the time:—

On Friday, 31st May, 1816, William Moles and Sarah his wife, were tried at the Old Bailey for the wilful murder of John Hewley, alias Haseley, a boy about six years of age, in the month of April last, by cruelly beating him. Under the direction of the learned judge, they were acquitted of the crime of murder, but the husband was detained to take his trial as for a misdemeanor, of which he was convicted upon the fullest evidence, and sentenced to two years' imprisonment. The facts, as proved in this case, are too shocking in detail to relate: the substance of them is, that he was forced up the chimney on the shoulder of a bigger boy, and afterwards violently pulled down again by the leg and dashed upon a marble hearth; his leg was thus broken, and death ensued in a few hours, and on his body and knees were found scars arising from wounds of a much older date.

This long-continued system of cruelties, of violations of public and private duties, bore and ripened its natural fruits. The climbing boys grew up to be unhealthy, vicious, ignorant, and idle men, for during their apprenticeships their labour was over early in the day, and they often passed away their leisure in gambling in the streets with another and other children of their stamp, as they frequently had halfpence given to them. They played also at "chuck and toss" with the journeymen, and of course were stripped of every farthing. Thus they became indolent and fond of excitement. When a lad ceased to be an apprentice, although he might be but , he was too big to climb, and even if he got employment as a journeyman, his remuneration was wretched, only a week, with his board and lodging. There were, however, far fewer complaints of being insufficiently fed than might have been expected, but the sleeping places were execrable: "They sleep in different places," it was stated, "sometimes in sheds, and sometimes in places which we call barracks (large rooms), or in the cellar (where the soot was kept); some never sleep upon anything that can be called a bed; some do."

Mr. T. Allen, a master sweep for years, gave the Committee the following account of (what may be called) under the exploded system:—

If a man be 25 years of age, he has no more than 2s. a week; he is not clothed, only fed and lodged in the same manner as the boys. The 2s. a week is not sufficient to find him clothes and other necessaries, certainly not; it is hardly enough to find him with shoe-leather, for they walk over a deal of ground in going about the streets. The journeyman is able to live upon those wages, for he gets halfpence given him: supposing he is 16 or 20 years of age, he gets the boys' pence from them and keeps it; and if he happens to get a job for which he receives a 1s., he gets 6d. of that, and his master the other 6d. The boys' pence are what the boys get after they have been doing their master's work; they get a 1d. or so, and the journeyman takes it from them, and 'licks' them if they do not give it up." [These "jobs," after the master's work had been done, were chance jobs, as when a journeyman on his round was called on by a stranger, and unexpectedly, to sweep a chimney. Sometimes, by arrangement of the journeyman and the lad, the proceeds never reached the master's pocket. Sometimes, but rarely, such jobs were the journeyman's rightful perquisite.] "Men," proceeds Mr. Allen, "who are 22 and 23 years of age will play with the young boys and win their money. That is, they get half the money from them by force, and the rest by fraud. They are driven to this course from the low wages which the masters give them, because they have no other means to get anything for themselves, not even the few necessaries which they may want; for even what they want to wash with they must get themselves. As to what becomes of the money the boys get on May-day, when they are in want of clothes, the master will buy them, as check shirts or handkerchiefs. These masters get a share of the money which the boys collect on May-day. The boys have about 1s. or 1s. 6d.; the journeyman has also his share; then the master takes the remainder, which is to buy the boys' clothes and other necessaries, as they say. I cannot exactly tell what the average amount is that a boy will get on the May-day; the most that my boy ever got was 5s. But I think that the boys get more than that; I should think they get as much as 9s. or 10s. apiece. The Christmasboxes are generally, I believe, divided among themselves (among the boys); but I cannot say rightly. It is spent in buying silk handkerchiefs, or Sunday shoes, I believe; but I am not perfectly sure.

Of the condition and lot of the operatives who were too big to go up chimneys, Mr. J. Fisher, a master-sweeper, gave the following account:— " They sometimes go into the country, and after staying there some time, they come back again; I took a boy of that sort very lately and kept him like my own, and let him go to school; he asked me Sunday to let him go to school, and I was glad to let him go, and I gave him leave; he accordingly went, and I have seen nothing of him since; before he went he asked me if I would let him come home to see my child buried; I told him to ask his schoolmaster, but he did not come back again. I cannot tell what has become of him; he was to have served me for months. I did not take him


from the parish; he came to me. He said his parents were dead. They frequently go into the country and get various places; perhaps they stop a month at each; some try to get masters themselves, and some will get into bad company, which very often happens. They generally turn loose characters, and people will not employ them lest they should take anything out of the house."

The criminal annals of the kingdom bear out the foregoing account. Some of these boys, indeed, when they attained man's estate, became, in a great measure, through their skill in climbing, expert and enterprising burglars, breaking into places where few men would have cared to venture. of the most daring feats ever attempted and accomplished was the escape from Newgate by a sweeper about years ago. He climbed by the aid of his knees and elbows a height of nearly feet, though the walls, in the corner of the prison-yard, where this was done, were nearly of an even surface; the slightest slip could not have failed to have precipitated the sweeper to the bottom. He was then under sentence of death for highway robbery.

"His name was Whitehead, and he done a more wonderfuller thing nor that," remarked an informant, who had been his master. "We was sweeping the bilers in a sugar-house, and he went from the biler up the flue of the chimney, it was nearly as high as the Monument, that chimney; I should say it was or feet higher nor the sugar-house. He got out at the top, and slid down the bare brickwork on the outside, on to the roof of the house, got through an attic window in the roof, and managed to get off without any knowing what became of him. That was the most wonderfullest thing I ever knowed in my life. I don't know how he escaped from being killed, but he was always an oudacious feller. It was nearly months after afore we found him in the country. I don't know where they sent him to after he was brought back to Newgate, but I hear they made him a turnkey in a prison somewhere, and that he's doing very well now." The feat at the sugar-house could be only to escape from his apprenticeship.

In the course of the whole Parliamentary evidence the sweepers, reared under the old climbing system, are spoken of as a "short-lived" race, but no statistics could be given. Some died old men in middle age, in the workhouses.

I took the statement of a man who had been what he called a "climbing" in his childhood, but as he is now a master-sweeper, and has indeed gone through all grades of the business, I shall give it in my account of the present condition of the sweepers.

Climbing is still occasionally resorted to, especially when repairs are required, "but the climbing boys," I was told, "are now men." These are slight dwarfish men, whose services are often in considerable request, and cannot at all times be commanded, as there are only about of them in London, so effectually has climbing been suppressed. These little men, I was told, did pretty well, not unfrequently getting or for a single job.

As regards the , during the existence of the climbing boys, we find in the Report the following results:—

The wages to the journeymen were a week, with board and lodging. The apprentices received no wages, their masters being only required to feed, lodge, and clothe them.

The wages were the same as the nominal, with the addition of as perquisites in money. There were other perquisites in liquor or broken meat.

In the Reports are no accounts of the duration of labour throughout the year, nor can I obtain from master-sweepers, who were in the business during the old mode, any sufficient data upon which to found any calculations. The employment, however, seems to have been generally , running through the year; though in the course of the twelvemonth master would have and another different journeymen, but only at a time. The vagrant propensities of the class is a means of accounting for this.

The wages of those journeymen who resided in their own apartments were generally a week, and their about extra in the form of perquisites. Others resided "on the premises," having the care of the boys, with board and lodgings and a week in money , and , the perquisites being worth

Concerning the or average wages of the whole trade, I can only present the following computation.

Mr. Tooke, in his evidence before the , stated that the Committee, of which he was a member, had ascertained that boy on an average swept about chimneys daily, at prices varying from to , or a medium return of about per chimney, exclusive of the soot, then worth or a bushel. "It appears," he said, "from a datum I have here, that those chimney-sweepers who keep boys (the greatest number allowed by law) gain, on an average, nearly ; boys, ; boys, ; boys, ; boys, ; and boy (yearly), exclusive of the soot, which is, I should suppose, upon an average, from half a bushel to a bushel every time the chimney is swept."

"Out of the profits you mention," he was then asked, "the master has to maintain the boys?"— "Yes," was the answer, "and when the expenses of house and cellar rent, and the wages of journeymen, and the maintenance of apprentices, are


taken into the account, the number of master chimney-sweepers is not only more than the trade will support, but exceeds, by above -, what the public exigency requires. The Committee also ascertained that the master chimney-sweepers in the metropolis were supposed to have in their employment journeymen and boys."

The matter may be reduced to a tabular form, expressing the amount in money—for it is not asserted that the masters generally gained on the charge for their journeymen's board and lodging —as follows:—

 20 journeymen at individual wages, 14s. each weekly . . . . £ 780 
 30 ditto, say 12s. weekly . . 936 
 100 ditto, 10s. ditto . . . 2,600 
 Board, Lodging, and Clothing of 500 boys, 4s. 6d. weekly . . . 5,850 
 Rent, 20 large traders, 10s. . . 520 
 Do. 30 others, 7s. . . . . 546 
 Do. 150 do., 3s. 6d. . . . 1,365 
 20 horses (keep), 10s. . . . 520 
 General wear and tear . . . 200 
   £ 13,317 

It appears that about of the master chimney-sweepers were themselves working men, in the same way as their journeymen.

The following, then, may be taken as the—

 Payment for sweeping 624,000 chimneys (4 daily, according to evidence before Parliament, by each of 500 boys), 10d. per chimney, or yearly £ 26,000 
 Soot (according to same account), say 5d. per chimney . . . 13,000 
 Total . . . £ 39,000 
 Yearly expenditure . . . 13,317 
 Yearly profit . . £ 25,683 

This yielded, then, according to the information submitted to the Select Committee, as the profits of the trade prior to , an individual yearly gain to each master sweeper of ; but, taking Mr. Tooke's average yearly profit for the classes of tradesmen, , , , , , and respectively, the individual profit averages above

The capital, I am informed, would not average above guineas per master sweeper, nothing being wanted beyond a few common sacks, made by the sweepers' wives, and a few brushes. Only about had horses, but barrows were occasionally hired at a busy time.

In the foregoing estimates I have not included any sums for apprentice fees, as I believe there would be something like a balance in the matter, the masters sometimes paying parents such pre- miums for the use of their children as they received from the parishes for the and maintenance of others.

Of the , &c., of sweepers, under the systems, I shall speak in another place.

It may be somewhat curious to conclude with a word of the extent of chimneys swept by a climbing boy. respectable master-sweeper told me that for years he had climbed or days weekly. During this period he thought he had swept chimneys as a week's average, each chimney being at least feet in height; so traversing, in ascending and descending, feet, or miles of a world of soot. This, however, is little to what has been done by a climber of years' standing, of the little men of whom I have spoken. My informant entertained no doubt that this man had, for the years of his career, climbed half as much again as he himself had; or had traversed feet of the interior of chimneys, or miles. Since the new Act this man had of course climbed less, but had still been a good deal employed; so that, adding his progresses for the last years to the preceding, he must have swept about miles of chimney interiors.

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 Title Page
Of the Street-Sellers of Second-Hand Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Live Animals
Of the Street-Sellers of Mineral Productions and Natural Curiosities
Of the Street-Buyers
Of the Street-Jews
Of the Street-Finders or Collectors
Of the Streets of London
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the London Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Sweepers of Old, and the Climbing Boys
Of the Chimney-Sweepers of the Present Day
Of the General Characteristics of the Working Chimney-Sweepers
Sweeping of the Chimneys of Steam-Vessels
Of the 'Ramoneur' Company
Of the Brisk and Slack Seasons, and the Casual Trade among the Chimney- Sweepers
Of the 'Leeks' Among the Chimney-Sweepers
Of the Inferior Chimney-Sweepers -- the 'Knullers' and 'Queriers'
Of the Fires of London
Of the Sewermen and Nightmen of London
Of the Wet House-Refuse of London
Of the Means of Removing the Wet House-Refuse
Of the Quantity of Metropolitan Sewage
Of Ancient Sewers
Of the Kinds and Characteristics of Sewers
Of the Subterranean Character of the Sewers
Of the House-Drainage of the Metropolis as Connected With the Sewers
Of the London Street-Drains
Of the Length of the London Sewers and Drains
Of the Cost of Constructing the Sewers and Drains of the Metropolis
Of the Uses of Sewers as a Means of Subsoil Drainage
Of the City Sewerage
Of the Outlets, Ramifications, Etc., of the Sewers
Of the Qualities, Etc., of the Sewage
Of the New Plan of Sewerage
Of the Management of the Sewers and the Late Commissions
Of the Powers and Authority of the Present Commissions of Sewers
Of the Sewers Rate
Of the Cleansing of the Sewers -- Ventilation
Of 'Flushing' and 'Plonging,' and Other Modes of Washing the Sewers
Of the Working Flushermen
Of the Rats in the Sewers
Of the Cesspoolage and Nightmen of the Metropolis
Of the Cesspool System of London
Of the Cesspool and Sewer System of Paris
Of the Emptying of the London Cesspools by Pump and Hose
Statement of a Cesspool-Sewerman
Of the Present Disposal of the Night-Soil
Of the Working Nightmen and the Mode of Work