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There are several legends why a Chimney Sweep is said to be "a harbinger of good luck".

One version of the legend has its origins in old England, where King George was riding horseback in a royal procession. A dog ran from the crowd, barking and nipping at the King's horse. The horse reared, and to the horror of the crowd, almost threw the King! A lone figure, shabbily dressed and filthy, stepped into the road. He caught the horse's halter and calmed the animal.

As quickly as he appeared, the man faded back into crowd. The King, wanting to reward the man, asked his name. No-one knew the man's name, but many told the King that he is just a Chimney Sweep. The King declared that from that day that Chimney Sweeps should be regarded as Lucky!

 
 
 
Historically, chimney sweeps were children. In the Victorian era they were known as "climbing boys". They
were required to climb up the inside of the chimney, sweeping and scraping soot into a bag. The tight spaces occasionally caused the sweeps to become stuck. A chimney in poor condition might cause the sweeop to lose a grip or footing and fall to his death.

Another hazard of the job was the illness caused by inhaling the soot. Cancers of the testicles and scrotum and various breathing problems were all too frequent. Often, children were afraid to perform their duties. Once forced up into the chimney, a fire was lit below them, preventing their descent and ensuring they would climb up. It is possible the phrase "light a fire under you" came from this practice.

Specialized tools were expensive and impractical for most chimney sweeps, making the practice of using children popular until the 19th centuy. Children as young as four years old were sold to master chimney sweeps most often by orphanages but sometimes by their own families. The children would do the work in exchange for learning a trade and being housed and fed. All the money the children earned was turned over to the master sweeper. Tales of mistreatment abounded and the children often begged for food from the customers they served.

In 1840, an act was passed banning anyone under the age of 21 from performing the duties of a chimney sweep. Penalties were small so the law was not enforced. In 1864 an act was passed that levied a sizable fine. With the support of the police, the courts and the people, the act was successful and changes in the industry were finally brought about.

 
 
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