Child Chimney Sweeps – Not SO “Mary Poppins”!

 Chimney Sweeps – Victorian Child Labour

The Older Queen Victoria

I would like to take you back 180 years in time.  The country is Great Britain and a baby girl, named Victoria is born in 1837.  She lived for many years as Queen.

Tough Life for Kids

Kensington Palace where Victoria lived as a child

While Victoria was a young child, she lived in a lovely house with servants.  She had the best education, lovely clothes and had the best medical care if she fell sick.


When Victoria was only 2 years of age, children as young of six were being used as chimney sweeps.  The houseowner did not have electricity so coal was used.  After many fires coal dust or soot would collect and start to block the chimney.  It was the job of the chimney sweeps – mostly boys – to go down the chimneys which were very narrow and knock away the soot.

It was a very dirty and dangerous job.  Kids could get stuck.  After climbing up and down several times the chimney sweep boy would have to collect all the soot in the fireplace that had fallen down.  They would work long hours that included Saturdays.  They seldom had clean clothes.  Life was hard for them.

Parliament Makes New Laws

When Victoria was 3 years of age (and not Queen) Parliament made it a law that no one under the age of 21 years could go down chimneys.  Many head chimney sweeps disobeyed the law and in 1875, when Victoria was now Queen, a 12 year old boy died when his boss made him clean a hospital chimney.  Everyone, including the Queen was shocked because she now had children of her own.

Now a new law came out that required all Master Chimney sweeps to register with the police.  More checks were made so that no kids were hired to go down chimneys.

Somewhat Better Lives for Kids

When it was now the law not to send kids down chimneys, their health improved.  Before this new law, kids had lung diseases as the soot entered the lungs.  Some died of cancer of the lungs.

Now, kids had a chance of going to school instead of working.

The long hours that kids worked in the mines, in factories and as young servants were reduced.  However, it took many, many more years until kids were required to go to school full time.  With better education, many kids were able to help their families with higher paying jobs.

Child Labour in Other Countries

Please take your education seriously and do your best.  This will help you in the future.  I just want you to know that there is still child labour in many countries of the world.  You can join a club at school or in your church/synagogue/mosque/temple to help children go to school in these countries.