East Preston Street
"There were 32 chimneys to the tenement
where we lived in East Preston Street.. Each stack had
12 chimney pots. All the chimneys merged as they went upwards
in the building."
On the Roof
"The chimney sweeps would divide, one to the
house and fireplace, the other up a ladder at the top of the stairway, a
drop of about 80feet below him. Then a hatch and perilous climb up
the sloping tiles to the chimneys.
The sweep on the roof had a long rope, with
heavy weights, about 4 inches in diameter near the end, and a large stiff
circular brush attached above the weights. The weighted rope, with
brush, was dropped down the chimney."
Finding the Fireplace
"To get brush and weight from chimney to the
- The roof man bellows down the flue, a long
- The fireplace man replies ‘WAAA.aaa,aaa!’.
- Roof man jiggles the rope and weights at
each junction in the flue, until
the fireplace man calls ‘WOOO,ooo,ooo!’.
‘WOOO,ooo,ooo!’ the right signal, and the roof
man knows the brush is at the right fireplace. Fireplace man knows if
brush has the correct flue by the amount of soot and debris falling where
In the House
"The fireplace was prepared by draping a heavy
cloth over and around, weighted into place, to allow the soot to settle,
hopefully, behind the cloth. The room cleared of nearly all
Long before the chimney is pronounced clean,
the room and the sweep have inch deep coats of soot. When the cloth
was removed from the fireplace, the sweep shovelled the soot into
blackened sacks and carried them away.
The fire would be re-lit and
Gran would spend the rest of the day cleaning
"And all this Woo-ing and Waa-ing is
inaccurate. A neighbour in the tenement, or in the adjoining
tenement, having their chimney swept could cause soot and debris to come
down into our fireplace or even into Gran’s cooking pots.
Sweeps' weights were heavy. Once, several
bricks, plus soot, arrived in our kitchen fireplace when the sweeps were
in the adjoining tenement, interrupting our meal."
Jim Vandepeear, York, Yorkshire, England: December