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Ed Wilson, chimney sweep
Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a London chimney sweep

Danielle Goldstein

…according to Ed Wilson, 43.

Sweeping has come a long way

‘In the old days sweeps went round on bikes with their rods on their backs, and the room ended up filled with black soot. We still use traditional rods, which can reach up ten metres of flue, but we close up the fireplace with big sponges to stop the soot coming into the room.’

You can’t just stick anything up your chimney

‘London is mostly a smoke-free zone, meaning you have to use Defra-approved smokeless fuels or a wood-burning stove that is efficient and clean. The wood has to have less than 20 percent moisture.’

Charlatan sweeps are a thing

‘You don’t need any qualifications, so anyone can say they’re a chimney sweep, turn up with the wrong equipment, do a really bad job and disappear with the money. I think in any industry there are conmen and rogues, but there are also people who’ve been doing it for years and learnt through their families. Always check your sweep is HETAS approved.’

Fireplaces are supposed to be modest

‘Historically, when houses were built they made the fireplace as big as possible so the customer could put in a metal insert or a smaller fireplace but these days people open them right up. One of the biggest problems we have is that the flue isn’t big enough for the huge fires people want.’

Chimney sweeping can still be grisly

‘The two guys who run the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps found a skeleton inside a chimney in London. The police thought it was a hoax and questioned them for 12 hours, until eventually they tested the bones and realised it was a small child – obviously a Victorian chimney sweep – who’d been shut up there for 150 years.’

Now discover the things you only know if you’re a London grocer.

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