Feature - courtesy of the Hull Daily Mail
FACES blackened by soot, they were once a common sight on East Yorkshire's streets.
But the chimney sweep fell out of favour as British homes embraced the concept of central heating.
Today, with soaring energy costs and the threat of climate change, chimney sweeps are making a comeback as people return to more traditional ways of heating their homes.
British Gas, supplying energy to almost half the households in the country, has already hiked up its prices by 35 per cent, meaning families are now paying £400 a year more to heat their homes, and other companies are following suit.
For sweeps like Master Chimney Sweep Jethro Vivian, self-proclaimed Keeper Of The Chimneys For The Town Of Beverley, business is booming.
"In the past, people wanted instant heat," he says. "People didn't want to come home and start lighting fires, so they had central heating installed to make it easier.
"That meant all these beautiful fireplaces and Yorkist ranges were ripped out in the 1960s and 1970s and the openings were boarded up.
"But I've noticed in the past two years, beginning around the time when people started worrying gas was becoming scarce, more people are opening up fireplaces.
"More recently, with the prices of gas and electricity going up, combined with the exorbitant price of oil, more and more people are switching to stoves and open fires."
Friends Of The Earth says more and more people are turning to renewable sources of fuel to heat their homes as the climate change message hits home.
Nick Rau, of Friends Of The Earth, says: "It is not only that people are becoming more aware of climate change, they are becoming aware switching to renewable forms of energy can make a difference in terms of their own fuel bills.
"Wood-burning stoves are one of the most cost-effective ways to cut heating bills. "We have a lot of woodland that isn't being managed and there is also a lot of waste wood from the construction industry "At the moment, that goes into the waste stream, so diverting it away from landfill is a great idea as it can be used as wood fuel once it's cleaned and dried."
Based in Beverley, Jethro Vivian is now receiving calls from four new customers every week as boarded-up fireplaces throughout Hull and the East Riding are opened up and chimneys need sweeping.
Open fires, mainly coal, became popular throughout Britain during the Industrial Revolution and chimney sweeps became a familiar sight in our towns and cities.
Coal fires continued into the 20th century, although the problem of air pollution -including the Great Smog of 1952, which claimed at least 4,000 lives - raised environmental and health concerns.
In 1956, the Clean Air Act was passed, restricting areas where coal could be burned and relocating power stations to rural areas.
With the restrictions still in place today, it means people living in smokeless zones throughout Britain, including parts of Hull and the East Riding, must burn smokeless fuel, such as anthracite or coke, which does not produce visible smoke while burning.
These restrictions, combined with the growing popularity of central heating in the 1960s and 1970s, saw the number of homes with open fires reduced even further.
But open fires and stoves burning wood and solid fuel such as coal are growing in popularity as the environmental message, combined with the effects of the credit crunch, hit home.
Away from his base in Beverley for lunch last week, his answer-hone dealt with seven new inquiries in just one hour.
"Lots of people have always had an open fire," says Mr Vivian.
"Residents in villages around Beverley without a gas supply have always had them and some pensioners would never consider having anything other than a coal fire.
"But we're getting lots of inquiries from new customers now, keen to open up fireplaces and convert to stoves, particularly multi-fuel stoves.
"It's not a difficult process, providing your chimney will support an open fire.
"We carry out checks to ensure your chimney doesn't need to be relined and conduct smoke evacuation tests before we issue certificates. Provided that goes well, people can reinstate a Class 1 chimney and most people are choosing to install a multi-fuel stove, allowing them to have the best of both worlds by using coal, logs or smokeless fuels."
Daniel Brown, of the Fireplace Superstore in Mount Pleasant, Hull, said more and more people are switching over to wood-burning or multi-fuel stoves.
"It is growing in popularity and a lot of people tell us it's because gas and oil prices are going up," he said.
Solid fuel stoves cost from £500, with fitting about £100, while stoves that can heat water and power an existing gas central heating system are more expensive, starting at £1,000.
Mr Brown said: "They are more economical to run and a lot of people are going for solid fuel stoves combined with a back boiler to heat water and their central heating.
"We get someone coming in at least every couple of weeks who wants to change over."
Jethro's Master Sweep Cart - for Wedding and other occasions attendances..
and also featured on Radio Humberside's Carl Wheatley's Saturday morning show.
'Tricks of the Trade - The truth about open fires, multi-fuel stoves and log burners'
by Jethro - now available from Amazon - only £2.99.
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