A chimney sweep is a worker who clears ash and soot from chimneys. The chimney uses the pressure difference caused by a hot column of gas to create a draught and draw air over the hot coals or wood enabling continue combusition. Chimneys may be straight or contain many changes of direction. During normal operation, a layer of creosote builds up on the inside of the chimney restricting the flow. The creosote can also catch fire, setting the chimney and the building alight . The chimney must be swept to remove the soot. This was done by the master sweep.
In the United Kingdom, the master sweeps took apprentices, who were boys from the workhouse or bought them from their parents and trained them to climb chimneys. In the German States, master sweeps belonged to trade guides and did not use climbing boys. In Italy, Belgium, and France climbing boys were used.Some of the boys would’ve got cancer or would’ve had breathing problems from inhaling the soot.