The occupation of chimney sweep is considered to be one of the oldest in the world, as chimneys have been around since ancient times, though it is only in the last two hundred years that the chimney has grown large enough to hold a man.
With the increased urban population, the number of houses with chimneys grew in pace and the occupation of chimney sweep became much respected and sought-after, although it is sometimes derided in verse, ballad and pantomime.
In 1840 a law was passed making it illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to sweep chimneys. A Chimney Sweepers Act was passed in 1875 that required chimney sweepers to be authorised by the police to carry on their businesses in the district.
Today, venting systems for heating oil, natural gas, wood and pellet burning appliances, including building furnaces and space heaters are maintained by modern chimney sweeps. The standard chimney brush is still used, along with more modern tools (such as vacuums, cameras and special chimney cleaning tools), although most sweeps are done from the bottom of the chimney, rather than the top, to prevent the dispersion of dust and debris.
In parts of Great Britain it is considered lucky for a bride to see a chimney sweep on her wedding day. It is also considered good luck to shake hands with a chimney sweep or to be blown a kiss by one, but the origin of these traditions are unknown.
As a lucky symbol, depictions of chimney sweeps are a popular New Year’s gift in Germany; either as small ornaments attached to flower bouquets or candy, e.g. marzipan chimney sweeps.
In Croatia, chimney sweeps still wear a traditional all black uniform with small black cap.
It is considered good luck to rub one of your buttons if you pass one in the street.