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Large Birds Nest Removed on the Audley End Estate

Posted By paddy

Last week I attended a large property on the Audley End Estate where I was booked to sweep three large open fires and a large Clearview Wood-burning stove. Everything was fine until I started to sweep the chimney in the main sitting room. There I found that the Rooks had been busy over the last year, or more likely a number of proceeding years come to that! From three meters from the bottom of the chimney right to the top there was a compacted birds nest. Compacted more so because although the chimney was 11 meters high, it had a relatively small diameter of flue.

I used a combination of a pig’s tail and rods, and power sweeping with a metal flail to remove the nest and I had all the material removed within an hour and three quarters. Fortunately for me at times during the sweeping process, I was able to dislodge large sections of nest in one go, which dropped down the chimney in big clumps. All in all I removed 10 and a half large trugs of material; which included twigs of various sizes, feathers, one mummified bird and lots of soot and tar, without making any mess. A job well done I felt. I recommended that the owner have a pot and anti-bird cowl fitted to the chimney stack to prevent similar nest building in the future.

An Aga Little Wenlock Stove & a Chimney Full of Tar

Posted By paddy

Linking in quite nicely with my last blog before Christmas (the sweeping of a small Coalbrookdale stove), this week I solved an issue with successor the Aga Little Wenlock. The Aga Little Wenlock is frequently a tricky little blighter to sweep; this is because usually it is not possible to simply drop the baffle. Sometimes if the baffle is not warped it can be dropped without dismantling the rest of the interior components of the stove. However, this is not usually the case, and the poor sweep has to take out all the internal components before being able to access the flue mouth. These internal components include 2 x small top metal baffles, 4 x side ceramic bricks and the large rear ceramic brick – The components are removed in this order and can be quite fiddly to take out before the large metal top baffle can be dropped. The large metal top baffle is dropped by sliding it fully forward and tilting it slightly. Phew what a palarva!

On this occasion, a stove which I have swept previously on a number of occasions, was easily dismantled in no time at all. The main top baffle dropping out effortlessly. However, when it came to sweeping the flue I found a great deal of tar deposits just sitting on top of the main baffle; a very suspicious sign, particularly as when I had swept the stove the year previously it had not produced any tar, only fine soot. Immediately I was aware that something had changed in the intervening year. As the stove and flue appeared to be in excellent condition, which meant that the tar must have been the result of the way the customer had been burning the stove in the intervening period. I determined to talk to him about it once I had completed sweeping the flue and cleaning the appliance.

I considered the best way to sweep this problematic chimney was to power sweep it using liner rods and brush. I did this and found that after every three rods (the chimney was 9 and a half meters tall), the stove was full of tar deposits and had to be cleaned out manually using a large trug and small shovel. I carried on this process until the entire flue had been swept and I had removed one and a half trugs full of tar from the stove. I was then able to tidy up and finish cleaning the stove using the vacuum before putting it back together again. Upon discussing the operation of the stove with the customer I discovered that in the intervening year he had altered his burning habits. He had started using a lot more coal and had taken to stocking the stove up prior to bed time and closing it right down to keep it in for the morning. The customer was tactfully and appropriately advised regarding the operation of his appliance and was pointed to the Guild of Master Sweeps ‘burn right campaign – https://www.guildofmasterchimneysweeps.co.uk/burnright-information-guide/

Festive Folklore from the Guild of Master Sweeps

Posted By paddy

Christmas is a time where myths come into play – it’s all part of the fun – and the chimney retains a central role in setting the stage for festive celebrations. For how could Santa Claus enter a home and leave presents, if he couldn’t use a chimney?

Yet it’s not always been the case that Santa plopped down down a flue with cheerful aplomb – a merry plump gent with snow-white beard, ruddy cheeks and garbed in red.

In fact, it was American writer Washington Irving who came up with the notion of Santa tumbling down the chimney with gifts for youngsters. In his satire, ‘Knickerbocker’s History of New York’ (1809), Irving took a dig at Dutch immigrants in the New Amsterdam. His satirical aim was those obsessed with the Dutch heritage of the city. The character he presented was a Dutch burgher version of St Nicholas, smoking a clay pipe with an elfin appearance: –

‘…in the sylvan days of New Amsterdam the good St. Nicholas would often make his appearance in his beloved city of a holiday afternoon, riding jollily among the tree tops or over the roofs of the houses, now and then drawing forth magnificent presents from his breeches pockets and dropping them down the chimneys of his favorites’.

The character’s original Dutch name of ‘Sinterklaas’ was Americanized as ‘Santa Claus’. The idea of Santa coming down the chimney himself (rather than just chucking presents down) was later popularised in the poem ‘A Visit from St Nicholas’ by Prof Clement Clark Moore in 1823 with cartoonist Thomas Nast giving Mr Claus his sleigh, his reindeer and depicting him as a jolly big chap.

St Nicholas, the original inspiration behind the character, lived in the 4th century, in what is now modern-day Turkey, as the Bishop of Myra. He became the patron saint of children, as well as (eventually) Amsterdam and Moscow. One legend says that he put money through the window of a home to help a poor family whose daughters faced prostitution. As chimneys became commonplace, the tale adapted over the years as it became popular, to see the saint dropping money down the flue. Dutch children began leave shoes by the fireplace, as the legend evolved, so that the saint could put gifts and sweets down the chimney and fill the shoes as part of the celebration of the Feast of St Nicholas. The tradition was carried to the New World of America with Dutch emigrants and that is how Irving, as above, came to be involved in the development of the tradition. A tradition which later saw Santa evolve further such as with the famous Coca Cola promotion of the merry red gent in the 1930s.

Santa wasn’t always big, however. In the 19th century, the Sinterklaas character was somewhat small in stature. And there were similar characters who no doubt influenced the literary tradition around Winter celebrations. That was especially true when it came to the chimney and fireplace. There have been endless myths about witches, goblins and fairies entering a home via a chimney, especially during Christmas festivities. The brownie was one such mythical creature, said to help with household tasks at night – leaving when morning came by disappearing up the chimney.

A precursor of Santa Claus could arguably be the ‘Belsnickel’, a wild man with a whip which, according to German folklore of Pennsylvania in the 19th century, frightened bad children and rewarded good youngsters. He was darker in appearance and of nature than Santa, but would still use the chimney at midnight to leave gifts in a stocking. His name means ‘furry Nicholas’.  Belsnickel echoes somewhat another character known in the Lowland countries during Winter celebrations: Zwarte Piet. His myth presents him as rather harsh to naughty children and the character itself, with a blacked-up face, is somewhat controversial. Odin, the Norse god, was also alleged to enter homes via chimneys during the Winter solstice. All of these characters have influenced the Santa Claus we know today – and the chimney has always been the stage for the storytelling.

Whether it is Santa Claus or Sinterklaas, goblins or a wild man – the chimney holds a mystical allure during the festive period. The darkness inside the structure, connecting the home to the outside world, speaks of mystery and intrigue, which comes alive as part of celebrations for Christmas. And that is why chimney sweeps also have a near-mythical status in the Winter literary tradition – the difference being, of course, that they are real!

Chimneys & folklore at Christmas

A Happy Christmas to all my Customers – A Snowy Fox Family

Posted By paddy

Can I wish all my customers a very Happy and Peaceful Christmas! I hope you all have a great time over the Christmas period and get everything you desire from Santa! Also it is time to make the most of your wood-burning stoves, open fires and inglenooks to create that real festive atmosphere.

Today Saturday 22nd is the last I am working before Christmas and I will then be having a much-needed rest with the family. Fantastic!

I will next be working in the New Year; starting on Thursday 3rd January.

My festive picture this year is a Vixen and her cubs walking across a snowy thatched roof. A very festive and Christmassy picture I think you will agree!

Have a great Christmas one and all, and happy burning!

Paddy & Claire

Solving Problems with a small Coalbrookdale Multi-Fuel stove

Posted By paddy

I recently swept the chimney for this small Coalbrookdale Multi-Fuel stove and encountered a number of problems that had developed in the chimney over an extended period of time. It transpired that the house had recently been purchased by new owners and that the previous owners had probably never had the chimney swept in all the time that they had resided at the property. This apparently was over a period of about 40 years, and it was highly likely that the stove had been there and in use over much of that time.

The stove itself was in relatively good condition, but was what I would term an old style installation; in that it was not lined, having a stove pipe that extended a short distance above the register plate and then ended inside the chimney. Consequently, this means that when the chimney is swept the upper surface of the register plate has to be cleaned off through the inspection hatches in the plate. This is because all the soot and material that is swept off the inside of the chimney falls down and lands on the register plate. This particular chimney had an approximately meter or so square void directly above the register plate before the chimney narrowed to about a foot square for the remainder of the stack (which was 11 and half meters tall).

Upon examination I found that the entire void in the chimney and for about a metre up the stack was completely full of compacted tar blocking the chimney. I removed this using rods and a pigs tail fitting; a process that took some time and which filled six and a half large trugs full of tar. I then found that four and a half meters up the stack there was a crows nest right up to the top of the stack. I again removed this this using rods and a the pigs tail fitting and the metal flail attachment, before I could sweep the chimney with a brush. A very time consuming process indeed.

The small Coalbrookdale Multi-Fuel stove is a rather attractive little stove and I still see one or two of the about on my rounds as well as some of the larger Coalbrookdale stoves. This is unusual as they have been out of production for some  time now, as the Coalbrookdale company does not exist any more as they were taken over by Aga. Aga have replaced the small Coalbrookdale Multi-Fuel stove with their own Aga Little Wenlock stove. Contact http://www.agaliving.com

A Little Bit of Cat and Mouse

Posted By paddy

Time for another thatched animal I feel and something to cheer everyone up in the middle of this dark December. This one certainly made me smile, with the little mouse being chased by the cat, echoes of ‘Tom and Jerry’ I feel here. Certainly the owner of this thatched cottage must have a lively sense of humor?

Why do cats, chase mice, is it just a natural predatory instinct on the behalf of the cat? Or are mice just one of life’s victims or do they just like the sport of running away? According to the Inter-web/Google “Cats chase mice to fulfill their instincts, as felines are natural predators and hunters whose vision is developed to see moving objects much better than stationary things”. And apparently; “within small which limits the possibility of counterattack (the expression ‘fight like a cornered rat’ is based on reality) and unlike birds, mice can’t escape by flying off. So it is not surprising that cats like to hunt mice; for a cat-hunting is a survival instinct”.

Further to all this scientific speculation, cats allegedly bring back slaughtered and alive gifts back to their owners because in the wild, cat mothers teach their young how to eat their food by bringing home dead or injured prey.

All very interesting I think you will agree?

Large Charnwood Stove Swept

Posted By paddy

I recently swept this rather attractive Charnwood Stove. I do like a Charnwood, they are attractive, contemporary whilst at the same time being classical and they are very easy to dismantle. The baffle, although heavy in a large stove like this one, simply lifts forwards over the retaining pins and then drops down through the square slots in the baffle.

This large charnwood in a large inglenook was deceptively found to be in the lounge of a small cottage and not as you might expect in a larger house. They certainly knew how to build a large chimney in the old days! The installation was relatively recent, the customer having had it installed just over four years previously. The customer was very pleased with the stove’s appearance and performance, stating that it warmed the room up very nicely!

 Charnwood stoves are a very well known stove manufacturer and are located on the isle of Wight. A J Wells & Sons Ltd, the manufacturers of Charnwood Stoves, was founded in 1972 and is a privately owned, family controlled, British company that specialises in the design and manufacture of high quality wood burning and multifuel stoves. They are actually the oldest British manufacturer of wood burning stoves, run by second and third generations of the family. There advertising blurb states that they “are dedicated to providing products of enduring design and of the highest quality”.

 It all started in 1972, when Alfred Wells and two of his sons, started a small engineering business in Niton on the Isle of Wight. Over the last forty years we have grown from our original small factory of around 1500 sq. ft to our current site of over 50,000sq. Ft.

We have always been keen to provide local employment on the Isle of Wight and have seen the number of our employees rise from the original 3 to well over 150. The company state that they are very proud of our workforce who have rewarded them by staying loyal to the company, with many staff having worked with us for over 25 years. Such continuity brings stability to the business ensuring that pride in the company and the quality of our products is maintained. The owners of the company are Christians and Christian values and principles underpin the way they do business and run the company.

Their company advertising goes on to say that “commitment to our staff is vital as is the commitment to invest in the latest technology to ensure the highest quality. Over the years we have installed our own Vitreous Enamelling Plant, CNC controlled Press Brakes, Robotic Welders and a state of the art Laser Profiler all of which allow pin point accuracy resulting in superior quality. Keeping the manufacture of as many parts as possible in-house enables us to maintain full production control to provide our customers with long-lasting products leading the field technically in both operation and function.

Contact details for Charnwood stoves are as follows:

Charnwood stoves,

Bishops Way,

Newport,

Isle of Wight PO30 5WS

Sales 01983 537777

Technical & Spares 01983 537799

Large Firebelly Stove Swept in a Farmhouse

Posted By paddy

I recently swept this rather large, attractive woodburning stove in a farmhouse close to Thaxted. The stove was a make and model I had nor come across before, the rather aptly named Firebelly (As this particular stove had a rather ample firebox; as you can see from the photograph). With a little research I discovered that Firebelly are actually a UK stove manufacturer based in Halifax in West Yorkshire, their full address is:

Firebelly Stoves Ltd,

Unit B Marshall Hall Mills,

Elland, Halifax, West Yorkshire

HX5 9DU

01422375582

http://www.firebellystoves.com

I found this particular model to be rather elegant and attractive and it was very easy to work on and came apart and back together rather easily thanks to its intelligent design. The only issue with this sweep was the white carpets throughout the downstairs of the premises (Every sweeps nemesis). So I was careful to put down plenty of sheeting, particularly as the customer wasn’t sure how long it was since the flue was last swept. As it turned out, this was a very wise precaution as the flue was very dirty and a large quantity of very fine soot was ultimately removed from the appliance following sweeping. Yet another satisfied customer.

Domestic Contentment – Cat and Dog living happily together – Maxey Peterborough

Posted By paddy

I thought it was time for another thatched animal, well two on this occasion, a cat and a dog living happily together. I think you will agree that this a picture of real domestic contentment? It is surprising just how many of my customers have cats and dogs who live together quite happily. Who said that cats and dogs are old enemies?

Attractive Villager Stove Swept and Glass Repaired

Posted By paddy

I recently swept the flue to this rather attractive Villager Multi-Fuel stove and repaired the glass in the doors. I think I made rather a good job of it if I say so myself!

This stove like the majority of modern stove installations is one a stainless steel liner. I have heard frequently comments to the extent that such installations don’t require sweeping; this is a mistaken notion for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, it will be a requirement of any buildings insurance that wood burning stoves and any other solid fuel appliance should be swept annually by a qualified, Certified tradesman who can issue a recognized Sweeping Certificate. The implication being that if anything goes wrong with the chimney such as a chimney fire, the insurance company will refuse to pay out a claim if there is no current Sweeping Certificate. A second reason for sweeping the flue is to prevent anything happening like a chimney fire or the flue becoming clogged and blocked with deposits from burning. Thirdly, not a lot of people know that the sooty deposits in the liner can mix with water that condenses on the cold surface of the liner and forms a strong acid which can eat away at the liner drastically shortening the lifespan of the liner. With the cost of a new liner well over £1000 to supply and install, chimney sweeping can clearly be seen to be a more cost effective option.

Villager Stoves are made by Arada Ltd, I do like them, they are well constructed and easy to work on. Arada are based at The Fireworks, Weycroft Avenue, Axminster, Devon. EX13 5HU. www.aradastoves.com

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