There is nothing quite so welcoming as an open fire. Unfortunately this brought with it the necessity of an annual visit by Mr Williams. Burning coal (and anything else small enough to fit into the hearth) gradually accumulated a layer of soot in the chimney walls. Eventually this could ignite, with regrettable consequences. At worst, the Fire Brigade would arrive, insert their hose into the chimney, turn on the water, and extinguish both fire and all pride in home furnishings. Then present a bill for services rendered.
The theory of sweeping a chimney was beautifully simple. A circular stiff brush was pushed up the chimney from the fireplace on an extending shaft of bamboo poles, until it emerged from the chimney pot. Then it was pulled back down again, removing the bulk of the soot lining the chimney walls.
There was a minor problem - that of controlling the soot that gravity delivered back into the fireplace. A skilled sweep left very little mess, charged professional prices, and took the soot away. Mr Williams, number 53, was an enthusiast who owned his own brushes, and left the soot for Granddad.
The correct procedure was to insert the first length of bamboo with the brush head into the chimney, and then to seal the fireplace area with a cloth and sticky tape. The cloth had a small centre hole, through which each bamboo length could be attached to its predecessor, until the small but enthusiastic assistant <ahem> reported from the street that the brush head was visible.
Younger readers may care to consider at this point that vacuum cleaners were unknown in our neighbourhood. Subsequent cleanup operations involved woodbines, tears, screams ('never again') and copious supplies of hot water from the geyser.
Fortunately, fitted carpets were equally unknown and linoleum was easily washed -- the walls provided rather more of a problem.
Ironically, genealogy has since shown that my male Coates ancestors were all Master Sweeps; the female members being umbrella makers. Now my mother's tears can be understood.
You may also like to read A Clean Sweep!!!