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Two Franco-Belge Stoves Repaired and Swept

Posted By paddy

In the past I have repaired and swept two Franco-Belge Stoves for two different customers; one of the stoves was a Merville, whilst the other was a Montfort. The issue with these stoves is that the grate expands with heating and then cannot be removed from the stove with ease. This is a problem because the grate has to be removed before the baffle/throat plate is removed to gain access to the flue for sweeping. I can only think that this issue with the grate is a design fault with these models of stove as it occurs wherever you find these types of Franco-Belge Stoves. The stove is also quite complex to dismantle and must be done in a particular order and in a particular way, otherwise it will not come to pieces. Firstly the two fire-retaining bars have to be removed; these sit on top of each other at the front of the fire-box. Next the rear fire-brick has to be removed; this is extracted from the bottom first and pulled forward; there are two diagonal indentations at the bottom of the brick that assist in gripping it for removal. It is then rotated so that it can be completely removed from the stove. The two side bricks are then removed in turn, again lifting them from the bottom. It is at this point that the grate can now be removed by lifting it upward from the rear until it clears the baffle, which somewhat unhelpfully slopes forward restricting the grates removal. Once lifted clear at the rear from the baffle the grate can be pulled forward, rotated and removed from the stove. Finally, the baffle can be removed by dropping it off the rear ledge on which it sits, it is then pulled forward, bottom first, just like the rear fire-brick, before it is rotated and removed from the stove. Frequently, the two baffle gaskets will fall lose into the firebox when the baffle is removed. These gaskets sit on top of either side of the top of the baffle. These can simply be stuck back in place on top of the baffle using heat resistant silicone and allowed to dry whilst the chimney is swept.

I hear you ask though, ‘how can you sweep the chimney of one of these stoves if the grate has expanded and is wedged in place’? One rather expensive option would be to have an inspection hatch cut in the stove pipe which would allow access to the flue. As I say, this would be expensive and it does not facilitate cleaning the top and rear of the baffle where soot and tar can collect and impede the efficient operation of the stove. A cheaper alternative way of repairing the stove is to pries out the grate using a large crowbar. A small amount of the rear of the grate can then be removed by grinding, so that it once again fits the stove correctly. This is the method I used last week to repair both stoves. Having removed the grates I took them to Springwell Forge in Ugley, where the Blacksmith David Gowlett removed the requisite amount from the rear of both grates. David is a handy man to know, on previous occasions he has repaired or totally re-fabricated stove baffles for me at a very reasonable cost. David has been a blacksmith since 1978 and has been running the forge at Ugley since 1989; he is a true craftsman. David Gowlett – Springwell Forge, Cambridge Road, Ugley CM22 6HY 01799546270 – springwellforge.co.uk

Franco Belge are one of Europe’s leading stove manufacturers and have been producing high quality stoves for over 80 years.

Lucky Brush out the top of the Chimney – Myth & Folk law

Posted By paddy

Here is a view of one of my brushes out the top of a chimney at a farm house close to Sturmer. Also in view is my van on the customers drive way. . The brush is actually not so much of a brush as a power sweeping head, but it is a brush in sweeping terms for want of a better word.

British folk law has it that it is lucky to see a chimney sweeps brush out of the top of a chimney. The mythology goes that the customer or any passer-by can make a wish on the brush when they see it emerge from the chimney; however they mustn’t tell anyone their whish as it will then never come true! Chimney sweeps themselves are also thought to be luck; folk law states that it luck to shake the hand of a chimney sweep, or to see a chimney sweep on your wedding day or even be kissed by the sweep!

So how did the chimney sweep become a good luck charm? Folklore experts report several theories. These may or may not be true, but they’re the common legends passed down through time.
All the way back in 1066, King William of Great Britain found himself in the way of an out-of-control carriage. A chimney sweep pushed him to safety and the King, believing the sweep brought him good fortune, declared chimney sweeps lucky.

Another theory involves King George III in the 1700s. The King was traveling in his carriage when a growling dog spooked his horses. A chimney sweep came to his rescue and prevented the carriage from turning over. King George also declared chimney sweeps to be lucky.
The most romantic, undated, theory talks about a chimney sweep who lost his footing and ended up hanging precariously from a gutter. A woman in the house spotted him and pulled him inside to safety. The two instantly fell in love and were married. This is why having a chimney sweep at your wedding (and having him give a little smooch to the bride) is considered a good sign of things to come. Prince Philip reportedly dashed out of Kensington Palace on the day of his wedding to Princess (now Queen) Elizabeth to shake a chimney sweep’s hand.
Chimney sweeps are also thought to bring luck in other countries aside from in Britain. In Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Croatia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Estonia chimney sweeps still wear the traditional all-black uniform with a black or white hat. It is considered good luck to rub or grasp one of your buttons if you pass one in the street. 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. Their traditional uniform is an all black suit with golden jacket buttons and a black top-hat.

A Thatched Dog This Time – Scottish Terrier

Posted By paddy

I noticed this Scottish Terrier on a thatched roof in Great Sampford on the road towards Little Sampford. In some ways this thatched animal does support my theory that thatched animals are mostly associated with hunting and shooting, but in a more tenuous way. Historically, the Scottish Terrier or Scottie was bred by farmers to help them manage vermin problems. He would follow prey, such as badgers, foxes, and other vermin, right into their burrows and then try to dig them out. Such breeds of dogs are known as Earth dogs. Scottish Terriers do well in earth-dog trials, which are a simulated hunt. So I think in the case of this thatched animal the choice of animal is as much about the owners personal taste as it is about hunting and shooting!

An Old Fashioned Continental Stove Swept

Posted By paddy

I recently swept a rather unusual Continental Stove at a house in Little Sampford. The customer told me that she had bought the stove second hand in France many years ago now. Apparently its previous home in France had been a rather fancy chateau! who would have thought it, that what had previously resided in one of the homes of the French aristocracy, has now for many years now been gracing (and keeping warm) a cottage in Little Sampford.

The stove itself, quite inspiringly is a French make, Godin. My customers might like to learn that this company has been making stoves at its cast iron foundry, on the same site situated in Guise, north-west of Paris since 1840, and has become one of Europe’s oldest and most respected companies. Unbelievably, Godin continue to make stoves similar to the one I swept in Little Sampford!

The customer was rightly proud of her quirky stove and not only that, she said that it kept her cottage very cozy and warm even in the coldest of weathers.

A Squirrel in the Thatch and a Defence against Witches

Posted By paddy

This is perhaps the most unusual thatched animal I have found so far, and is on a thatched cottage at the bottom of Roman Road in Radwinter. Although grey squirrels might be considered by some to be vermin and therefore worth shooting, I don’t think for one minute that shooting grey squirrels would in any way constitute field sport. So bang goes my theory about thatched animals being all about hunting and shooting themes! Perhaps after all this squirrel is a indigenous red squirrel, although North West Essex does not have any natural habitat for such creatures. I think that red squirrels are far more attractive than grey squirrels, they are native to the UK and they are far less destructive of the environment than their grey counterparts. So I would like to think that this is an example of a red squirrel in thatch!

In the photograph you can also see a sloping end to the ridge of the roof a feature which is frequently found on thatch properties. Myth and folk law has it that these sloping ends are a defence measure to prevent witches landing on the roof. Other witch defences found on thatched roves around East Anglia include sharp pointed stick on top of the roof. Other thatch folk law indicates that it was quite common for people to hide coins and pieces of bread in the thatching in order to ward off poverty.

A Happy Christmas to all my Customers

Posted By paddy

May I wish all my customers and FaceBook followers a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year!

On a festive note I took a picture of this unusual stove pipe chimney recently following the fall of snow we had. I thought it looked vey festive?

On a more serious note, many people might believe that a stove pipe chimney, like this one does not need sweeping, because it is made of cast metal and forms part of a sealed system, attached to a stove at one end and a cowl at the other. However, they would be wrong, a stove pipe like this can just as easily become blocked with soot and tar in the same way as any other chimney. Additionally, the soot that builds up in any flue reacts with water vapor that condenses on the cold metal surface of the liner to form a strong acid that can over time eat away at the flue. This is true for any lined chimney, whether attached to a wood-burning stove, Aga or Rayburn for example. The best thing to do is to sweep out that soot at the earliest opportunity; which would in effect mean sweeping the chimney at the end of the burning season, i.e. sometime in the spring once the appliance is no longer being used. In that way the chimney and appliance are then ready for use in the following winter season. Just something to think about!

And a Happy Christmas to one and all!

A Bad Smell up the Chimney – What Could it Be?

Posted By paddy

A customer recently contacted me to say that there was a really bad smell coming from an unused chimney in an upstairs bedroom. She went on to say that the smell had started when they had lit a wood burning stove in the room below. My immediate thought was that an animal had got into the chimney somehow and had died, perhaps a squirrel or bird and had begun to decay causing the terrible smell. I reassured the customer that everything would be ok and that the way forward was to make a CCTV examination of the chimney in order to identify the problem and then deal with what every might be identified as causing the issue.

Having said all this, when I attended the address and examined the chimney I found that some time previously the chimney had been blocked to prevent drafts. Someone had used a number of small hessian sacks stuffed with newspaper to block the chimney and that behind these a quantity of building material from the lining of the chimney, dirt, dust, leaves, twigs and feathers had built on the top of the sacks. One of the sacks in particular had become moldy and smelly. I looked at the newspaper filling the sacks and found it was from the Daily Mail dated 4th December 1956, so this stuffing had obviously been there a long time. Well perhaps up to 62 years! I examined the chimney with CCTV and found it to be completely clear of any other suspicious material and that it was not linked with the lined stove in the room below. So the rotten sacking proved to be the offending items after all! Job done and another satisfied customer.

Two Pheasants in the Thatch and Some Ancient History

Posted By paddy

More pheasants, I spotted these two on a roof in Water Lane, Radwinter at the Ashdon Road end. Pheasants would appear to be a popular animal to have on a thatched roof, which is perhaps not so surprising when you think just how many of them there are in the countryside! The pheasant is not a native bird to the UK, they originally come from Asia; the ones introduced into this country probably came from British India. The pheasant’s Latin family name is Phasianinae and they exhibit what is known as strong sexual dimorphism, in that male and female birds look entirely different, with the males being highly decorated and colourful and the females being very drab. Their Latin species name is colchicus is Latin for “of Colchis” a country on the Black Sea where pheasants became known to Europeans. Some of you might know that Colchis was also mythically where the golden fleece was supposed to have come from and where Jason and the Argonaughts went to find it!

Are They Bees or are They Wasps?

Posted By paddy

I recently swept a chimney in an upstairs bedroom in a house in Hempstead and was surprised to find that the chimney contained an old insect nest. In the photograph it is possible to clearly see the honeycomb structure of the nest as it came out of the chimney. This led me to believe that it was a bees rather than a wasps nest, although when it came out there was no evidence of any honey, which made me think that the nest was somewhat old? Additionally, I don’t think wasp’s nests have a honeycomb structure? But I’m no expert so I could be wrong? When I spoke to the customer, he said that he had observed what he thought were bees coming in and out of the chimney over the summer. At least in the end a good sweeping of the chimney gave it a good clean ready for winter as well as removing the nest which would have caused a nasty blockage!

The hunting, shooting Theme continues with a Pheasant in the Thatch

Posted By paddy

I saw this pheasant on a newly thatched roof in Wimbish Green the other day; is this further proof that thatched animals are all about hunting and shooting? Or are they just themed on animals found in the countryside? What is for sure is that there are certainly a lot of them about, particularly around the time of the shooting season. The pheasant shooting season in England and Wales lasts from the 1st of October to 1st February each year. I often think that as many of them are run over on the roads as are shot every year. They seem to be particularly stupid, lazy birds, with little or no road sense who take to the air and fly only as a last resort and often when it is much too late!