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A First Time for Everything

Posted By paddy

Yes, they do say that there is a first time for everything, and this week we definitely had a first for us whilst we were out working. Regularly on our travels we come away from customers’ addresses with gifts, people are so kind; they may be in the form of a monetary tip, a bottle of wine, eggs from their hens or flowers or produce from their gardens. But this week was so different, we came away from a customers address with a dog!! Yes, I know that sounds hard to believe, but it is true.

It happened like this; we were at an address in Hadstock just finishing a job when a neighbour of the customer we were doing knocked on the door and asked us to do his chimney and we obliged. He had a year-old Charnwood Aire which was easily swept with the Viper. As we were doing the work we got into conversation with him and his wife and they told us how the wife had recently been very ill in hospital and that the fur on one of their dogs was effecting both her and her husbands breathing as well as slowing her recuperation. After much heart ache they had decided to rehome the dog by sending it to the Woodgreen Animal shelter. The poor dog had started out life as a contraband sniffer dog for the Prison Service, but the Prison Service had let her go and she had ended up with the couple’s som. Unfortunately, he could not keep her when he started to have a family so she ended up with the couple who already had a dog of their own.

So we just couldn’t let her go off to the Woodgreen Animal shelter and ended up bringing her home to meet our two working cockers Millie and Roger. Her she is in the photos, a three-year-old black and white Sprocker called Maggie. She is very well trained and is beautiful. She has settled in so well with Millie and Roger, we are just so pleased. Who would think that chimney sweeping could do this!

Sweeping for the Bishop of Chelmsford Again – Central Essex Villages

Posted By paddy

It seems to be a very popular blog when I write about the villages and churches we have visited whilst sweeping for the Dioceses of Chelmsford. So, for this week’s blog here are some more of the beautiful medieval churches we have visited, this time in around central Essex.  So as with all the work we do for the Bishop of Chelmsford, there was lots of driving involved! But this does mean that we get to see lots of the beautiful Essex countryside and some fantastic historic monuments in the churches themselves. What’s not to like!

 St Peter’s Church Great Totham

The two questions most frequently asked about the church are: how old is it? and why is it so far from the village? The second question is easier to answer than the first. Like most English parish churches, St Peter’s would have been built by the Lord of the Manor as his private chapel, and after a few years would have been given to a monastery as a form of charitable donation. So the church is next to the Hall, with the vicarage, which perhaps stands on the site of the original priest’s house, forming a third in the group. No doubt there were a number of cottages round about, but these have left no trace. Over the years the centre of the village has shifted to busier parts of the parish, notably the crossroads where the village shop now is; but the church still stands at the geographical center of the parish, linked to all corners of it by footpaths. This would have been a gradual development; there is no reason to suppose that it was the result of a sudden single event like the Black Death.

The church’s early origins help us to understand how long it is has been here, because we know that between 1181 and 1186 it was granted to the Nunnery of St Mary Clerkenwell by Maurice de Totham; so there has been a church here since at least 1186. The earliest recorded vicar was called Thomas who, in 1285, was charged with killing Simon Godyng at Havering. He and his accomplice, the vicar of Goldhanger, were imprisoned in Newgate. The actual building, however, is less easy to date. Most churches were rebuilt at least once in the Middle Ages, or extended so much at different times that little of the original structure was left. Frederic Chancellor, writing about the church in the 19th century, thought that some of the stones at the south-east corner of the chancel were Norman, but other authorities say they are 13th century. The south wall of the nave and the base of the tower are 14th century; that is the date of the middle window in the south wall (which was originally in the chancel), and the tower window, as well as of the church’s two piscinas (one in the chancel, one in the south wall of the nave). Much of the timberwork of the nave and chancel roofs belongs to the 15th century, and the large south window to the early 16th, although its stained glass, by Powell & Son, dates from 1913.

The present appearance of the church, as with so many, is largely the result of work that was carried out in the 19th century. First, in 1878-9, the north aisle was added, to provide additional seating; this was to replace the galleries that had earlier been built in the church (probably in 1826). At the same time the architect, Joseph Clarke, rebuilt the tower and the south porch, provided new furnishings and fittings (including the seating, pulpit and font) and generally overhauled the structure. A new ring of six bells, cast by John Warner & Sons and reusing the church’s two remaining pre-Reformation bells, was hung at the same time. Further additions were made in 1881-5: the organ chamber and vestry on the north side of the chancel, and the private pew of the De Crespigny family on the south side. The architect for this work was the Revd Ernest Geldart, rector of Little Braxted, who also designed the unusual clock inside the church, as well as the east window, which was made by Cox, Sons, Buckley & Co. The private pew, which has its own outside door, contains a large number of monuments to members of the De Crespigny family, who lived at Champion Lodge (now Totham Lodge care home). The large extension on the north side of the church was added in 1990, designed by Carden & Godfrey. The stained glass window at the entrance to the extension was installed in 1995, and was made by Rowland and Surinder Warboys.

As well as the features already mentioned, there are a number of other items of interest to look out for when visiting the church. On the south side of the nave, at the east end, is a fragment of the rood screen that would have crossed the nave at this point and marked the division between the nave and chancel. There is no record of it, and it was probably taken down at the Reformation. Evidence of stairs that led up to the rood loft on top of the screen survived until the north aisle was built in 1878. Above the pulpit on the north side are three fragments of plaster that carry traces of 15th-century painting. Now very indistinct, it is said to have depicted adoring angels and archangels. In the north aisle is a rubbing of a memorial brass to Elizabeth Coke (died 1606) and her daughter, also Elizabeth; they both came to live in Great Totham in 1599. The brass itself is at the foot of the sanctuary step, but is mostly hidden by the choir stalls and carpet. By the font is a painting of the Adoration of the Magi, which hung behind the altar until the present reredos was installed in 1949. Little is known about it except that it was given by Mrs Frances Lee of Maldon and is said to have come from the chapel at Messing House. Finally, notice two depictions of St Peter, the church’s patron saint. The first is in the stained-glass window on the south side of the chancel, dated 1878, and shows him holding the keys of Heaven. The second is the statue on the outside wall of the vestry. The keys can be seen here also, on the cover of the book he has in his right hand, but in his left hand he is holding a fish – a reminder that he was a fisherman before becoming a ‘fisher of men’.

 St Nicholas Church Tolleshunt D’Arcy

The rather large village of Tolleshunt D’Arcy is found lying close to the Blackwater Estuary. The church is located on the village high street. The present church was largely built between 1380 and 1420. The two St Nicholas churches (Tolleshunt D’Arcy and Tolleshunt Major) now form the Benefice of Tolleshunt D’Arcy. This Grade I listed building is made of ragstone from Maidstone, Kent, rather than the more usual flint. The nave and tower are 14th century, the chancel, south porch and north chapel all 15th century. The floor of the bell chamber is original. Internally, there are several well preserved brasses (from the 14th, 15th and 16th century) and several marble monuments, mostly commemorating members of the D’Arcy family.

 Holy Trinity Church Pleshey

The village of Pleshey lies in the gentle hills to the west of Chelmsford and is notable for the fact that it was the site of Pleshey college. The college was a priests college and was served by a large medieval church which was largely late 14th Century. During the reformation the college buildings and the chancel of the church were demolished. The parishioners of Pleshey bought the nave of the church to serve as their parish church. Although the church is now largely a 19th century restoration the transepts and the arches leading into the nave are survivals from the late 14th Century church. In the 1750’s a local worthy Samuel Tufnell was responsible for rebuilding the chancel. His large tomb sits in the church, and is one of the best executed late 18th century memorials in Essex. His bust which Pevsner described as excellent and attributed to the sculptor Henry Cheere, sits atop a large sarcophagus with a long inscription. In the 1860’s the church underwent further restoration at the hands of Frederic Chancellor who gave the chancel a new east end and built the tower. This restoration also provided all the stained glass in the church, which is by O’connor.

 St Mary’s Church High Easter

St Mary’s is a solidly impressive church dating largely from the 14th century, its size and imposing architecture being more reminiscent of the large wool churches of Norfolk and Suffolk. However, its clerestory and battlemented porch executed in soft red brick marks it out as an Essex church. The clerestory and porch were added to the church in the 16th century and like much vernacular architecture ties the building to local building materials of the period. Pevsner observed that although the nave, and the chancel  are essentially those of an earlier Norman church (hence the solidity), but the later arcades and aisles with their elaborate tracery give it the appearance particularly from the exterior, as being almost entirely from the late medieval period.

Perhaps the most impressive remaining medieval features in the building are the roof boses in the low-canted roof above the clerestory. Notably they include a green man, a creature with a human head, a man in a cowl and cloak a cherub rising from a pot, a man with his tongue out and a cat that might be intended to be a lion. A restored parclose screen dating from the beginning of the 15th century is positioned at the east end of the north aisle and might suggest a date for the completion of the church a century prior to the roof being raised and the clerestory added. The only other survival of note from the medieval period is the font, which is strangely primitive considering its size. The bowl of the font has panels depicting the symbols of the evangelists, alternating with angels holding shields. It is quite unlike the East Anglian series of fonts that are notable across the region.

Steeple Bumpstead – Franco-Belge Camargue Multi-Fuel Stove

Posted By paddy


Here is a stove that is classically recognizable as a Franco-Belge Stove, looking very similar to the smaller Franco-Belge Savoy, Franco-Belge Viceroy, Montfort and the Belfort. But it is not, it is the larger Franco-Belge Camargue, and not a model I have come across before, so there are not many of them around. I come across most of the other Franco-Belge model variants with a high degree of frequency around the area, but this is the only instance I have swept a Franco-Belge Camargue. I also sweep one example of the larger again Franco-Belge Monte Carlo at an address in Great Sampford and which I think has previously appeared in one of my blogs. The Franco-Belge Monte Carlo being the largest stove in the Franco-Belge model range. The Franco-Belge Camargue like many of the other stoves in the Franco-Belge model range, has cast metal firebricks and is relatively easy to dismantle providing you know how the bricks are removed from the appliance.

The Franco-Belge company have been making cast iron stoves for over 90 years, the are based in Mariembourg in Belgium: Franco Belge Europe S.A. 127ieme RIF, 15 Zoning industriel 5660, Mariembourg http://www.fbeurope.be/en/5-contact

Possibly the oldest Chimney in Wales?

Posted By paddy

Well here it is, what is possibly the oldest Chimney in Wales, in the village of Carew close to Tenby. We have just had a short week away, travelling around the country visiting family as well as sightseeing, when we came across this chimney. It is called a Flemish chimney as the people who originally constructed it were Flemish immigrants who arrived in this part of Wales in the 13th and 14th centuries. The chimney is believed to have been built sometime in the 14th century and originally would have had a house adjoining it, which is clearly no longer there. The chimney is roughly circular in construction and has a bread oven at its base. Having said all this, other commentators believe that the association with the Flemmings is totally erroneous and that it was actually only constructed as late as the 19th century. Appparently the adjoining house was demolished in 1927 after being used as a communal bake house. During World War II two local families used it as a shelter from German air-raids. As far as we know, the oldest chimneys in Wales can be found in some of the country’s medieval castles.

During our time in Carew, we stayed at the Carew Inn, which we would highly recommend, and we visited Carew Castle which is literally just over the road from the Inn. At the end of the 11th century, the Normans extended their conquest of England into Wales and Pembroke Castle became the centre of Norman rule in South Pembrokeshire.

Gerald de Windsor was constable of the Castle on behalf of Henry I when he decided to build his own fortification on the Carew River, some ten miles up the tidal waterway from Pembroke. This was not the first settlement on the site, however. Excavation has revealed an Iron Age settlement. A substantial five-ditched promontory fort has been unearthed, together with large quantities of Roman pottery. A Dark Age settlement or fort may also have existed on the site. Gerald’s fortification was probably built of earth and wooden stakes. This fortification was later replaced by a stone Castle. Much of what remains of Carew Castle today was the work of Sir Nicholas de Carew (who died in 1311), who was responsible in particular for the east and west ranges.

In the late fifteenth century the Castle was greatly improved and extended by a very colourful character, Sir Rhys ap Thomas (1449-1525). He altered both the east and west ranges, and was responsible for many of the Bath stone windows and other features. Gaining the implicit trust of both Henry VII and Henry VIII, he was said ‘to rule this corner of Wales like a King’. The final development took Carew from Medieval fortress to Elizabethan manor. Sir John Perrot (1530-1592) built the great northern range, with its huge windows overlooking the Millpond. However, he was not destined to enjoy his magnificent new home, for he died in the Tower of London before the work could be completed.

An unexpected feline visitor in the back of the van in Arkesden

Posted By paddy

As regular readers of my weekly blog will know, over the years we have had a number of unexpected visitors to the back of our van whilst we are working. On this occasion it was the customers cheeky cat Billy who came to have a play around in the back of the van, he was particularly interested in swatting the long-handled sweeps brush where it was hanging from the racking! The customer told us an interesting story about how he had acquired Billy; it transpired that some time ago now Billy just arrived in the customer’s house and decided to stay. The customer was happy with this but decided to get Billy checked out at the vets first. At the vets the customer discovered that Billy had an identity chip and actually belonged to a couple who lived in a village about 7 miles away. The customer contacted these people and returned Billy to them and learn ’t that Billy had been missing for around 8 months.  This said within a short space of time, Billy had left his owners again and made his way back to the customer’s home. This happened a few further times until the owners said that obviously Billy was much happier living with the customer than them and said that was where he should stay for good.

Cyprus April 2024 – Some Chimneys in Neo Chorio Village

Posted By paddy


Yes, Claire and I manage to escape for two weeks to Cyprus again in April, staying at George and Adriann’s villa just outside Latchi. This year we decided that as we worked so hard, particularly during the sweeping season, six and seven days a week, that we would have lots of holidays. Amongst all the swimming and lazing around in the sun, we went to Alexies Taverna in Neo Chorio, where we saw a lot of factory-made chimneys. Neo Chorio is a beautiful typically Greek stone-built hilltop village. It has a large orthodox Basilica at the center, positioned in a delightful cobbled piazza.  The village name simply means new village, but it is far from new. The village has a population of only 519 people, so is rather small. Built on the plateau of Laona, with an average altitude of about 170 meters, Neo Chorio Paphou is located in the Akamas peninsula, with a large part of the peninsula being under its administrative authority.

Saffron Walden Crank Up – Sunday 28th April 2024

Posted By paddy

Well, we spent a busy week at work, slowly following one steam engine after another on their way to the Saffron Walden Crank up, wondering whether we were ever going to arrive at the next job and how late we were going to be. But to be honest it didn’t trouble us too much; it was just fantastic to see all those steam beasts back on the road again.

We had a fantastic day at the Crank Up on the Sunday, which was our one day off last week, and we met many of our customers there. Notably we met David Gowlett the blacksmith from Ugley, who was there with his steam tractor Ada. David told us that he had been left Ada in his grandfathers will when he was just 7 years of age. Ada had spent all her working life doing agricultural tasks on the Stetchworth Estate near Newmarket and had worked there prior to the First World War. She eventually ended up in a scrap yard in Saffron Walden where she was rescued for preservation.

As you can see from the photographs there were two Sentinel Steam Lorries at the show. I took these photos to send to my Uncle Ern up in Liverpool, as he had been evacuated to Shrewsbury to live with three maiden aunts during the Second World War and he can remember clearly the steam lorries trundling out of the Sentinel Works.

As a day out I can highly recommend the Crank Up, along with all the steam vehicles, there were classic cars, lorries and tractors as well as steam organs, steam fairground rides, a beer tent and lots of food outlets. There was one doing particularly good fresh doughnuts. It was only a shame that the weather was so poor, wet and the wind was really whistling across the old Debden Airfield where the show was held.

Saffron Walden – Esse Lightheart Wood-Fired Range Cooker

Posted By paddy

I still sweep a number of wood-fired and solid fuel range cookers across the area, but to be honest they are getting few and far between and the vast majority of them are either Aga’s or Rayburn’s. I was therefore most surprised to find this example of an Esse Lightheart Wood-Fired Range Cooker in the kitchen of a semi-detached house in Saffron Walden. Pleasantly surprised I should say. Across the whole of the area I cover I only sweep one other example of an Esse Wood-Fired Range and that is an old Esse 1000 model in an address in Debden Green. I quite like this new more modern approach to the range cooker that Esse have taken with the Lightheart. My favorite feature is the glass window to the fire-box so that you can see the range in operation when it is lit. Beautiful.

Esse are a long-established company who commenced production of range cookers in 1854 under the direction of a Scot James Smith. In the early 1800’s James decided to emigrate to America. So at the age of just 16 James set off to make his fortune in a romantic style, on foot. He had heard that a barque was soon to set sail from Greenock to New York. In New York he apprenticed himself to a metal worker, his friend Wellstood helping him by signing his indenture papers as his ‘guardian’. after completing his apprenticeship, James worked with a manufacturer in the metal work business in New Orleans before setting up on his own in State Street, Jackson Mississippi. The business appeared to have prospered immediately because after just two years, James could afford to visit Scotland to marry the girl he chose nine years before, at the age of sixteen. Her name was Anne Wells Brown and they set off for a new life in Jackson. While the business prospered, Anne’s health did not. The hot climate was wearing her down, and after a dozen years of it, it became evident that something had to be done.James made the biggest decision of his life. He had successfully been making and selling stoves in America and it occurred to him that the type he specialised in was unknown in Britain. He would go home with his wife and five children and set up business there. So it was that in 1854 James returned to Scotland and made arrangements to set up a business making ESSE stoves. He returned to the States to hand over his old business to his younger brother, Robert A Smith, and his adventures began all over again. On September 17th ‘SS Arctic’, the steamer that he was aboard, was involved in a collision with the ‘Vesta’. James spent three days and two nights awaiting rescue aboard a makeshift raft before being rescued by the ‘Cambria’. James returned to Scotland and the business of manufacturing ESSE cookers and stoves flourished.

By the mid-1900s, ESSE stoves, fires and range cookers were warming all manner of households – from royalty to remote rural homesteads. Early ESSE stoves were primarily designed for the burning of different types of coal. Circa 1910 the ESSE Pioneer Stove was an innovative wood burning stove. The design allowed smoke re-burning to take pace above the firebox before the waste gases entered the flue. Many modern stoves claim to be the originator of this idea, but the ESSE Pioneer refutes these claims. The Pioneer was made in three sizes. Today, wood burning has had something of a renaissance and ESSE makes dedicated woodburning cookers and stoves, alongside multi-fuel appliances. Florence Nightingale was passionate about ESSE cookers and would use no other brand at her hospital in Balaclava. Famous British explorers, Shackleton and Scott, also relied on ESSE to provide hot food and warmth to their expedition team in some of the world’s coldest and most inhospitable places. This tradition is followed by top British climber Alan Hinkes, who uses a specially adapted ESSE Solo to heat his base camp in the Himalayas. In the 1985 an Esse range cooker achieved its screen debut, appearing with Special Agent 007 James Bond in a ‘View to a Kill.’


Steeple Bumpstead – White Enamel Stovax Huntingdon 25 Multi-Fuel Stove

Posted By paddy

Here is something rather unusual, a Stovax Huntingdon 25 Multi-Fuel Stove but in a white enamel finish. I have swept numerous examples of the Stovax Huntingdon range of stoves over the years, but I had not come across one with an enamel finish. What I have seen a lot of manufactured by the stovax company and which comes in a number of different coloured enamel finishes, is the Stovax Brunel range, but I have not seen any other model of stovax stove in an enamel finish before. The lady customer was rather proud of her enamel stove and the fact that it is rather rare and unusual, although personally I’m not sure that a white finish is the best finish for a stove, as it will show any dirt or soot quite quickly. The customer was also pleased that the stove operates more than adequately to heat what was a rather large room.

The Stovax Heating Group has been dedicated to the design and manufacture of exceptional stoves, fires and fireplaces for 38 years. Today, we are one of the UK’s leading stove and fireplace manufacturers, exporting to over 25 countries worldwide.

Across our wood burning, multi-fuel, gas and electric products, we strive to create the future of fire. Each of our heating products is the result of decades of expert craftsmanship and class-leading innovation – representing the pinnacle of British engineering.

The Stovax Heating Group is proud to be part of the NIBE Stoves group, a market-leading provider of domestic heating products.

Based in Exeter, England, Stovax Ltd was established in 1981 to design, manufacture and distribute wood burning stoves and fireside accessories. By 1988, the sister company Gazco Ltd was formed to develop and produce gas and electric versions of Stovax stoves.

Today, Stovax and Gazco continue to work very closely together. Each company has constantly developed its product range such that the combined businesses have grown to become one of Europe’s leading manufacturers of stoves, fireplaces and fires, with exports to countries worldwide.

In 2006, Stovax Ltd purchased Yeoman, a long established manufacturer of wood burning stoves that specialised in more rustic, rural styling. The company continues to produce a distinctive and separate range of wood burning, multi-fuel, gas and electric stoves and fires under the Yeoman brand.

Stovax is also the UK and Republic of Ireland distributor for a number of additional fireplaces and stove brands including DovreLotusNordpeis & Varde. You can find your nearest retailer in the UK and the Republic of Ireland by using the Find a Retailer tool on this website. For information on distributors in other countries, please contact exportsales@stovax.com.



Radwinter – Masport Auckland Wood-Burning Stove

Posted By paddy

Here is a real rarity, a Masport Auckland Wood-Burning Stove, I had never come across one of these before finding this example at an address in Radwinter. Until I swept this stove I was not even aware of a stove company called Masport. Needless to say, I was straight on to Google when I got home to see what I could find out about Masport and the Auckland Stove. I was keen to do this as not only had I not been aware of this stove manufacture and model I had been told by the customer that they had been very impressed with the stoves performance but had not been able to tell me much about it as they had inherited it when they had moved into the address. I always like a bit of a rarity for the weekly blog!

By searching the web I was able to discover that Masport Heating are an Australian stove manufacturer who have been producing stoves and other heating components for over 40 years. They have manufacturing sites in both Australia and New Zealand, hence the Auckland stove model. Their sales material tells us that: “Masport Heating products are designed specifically for Australian homes. We are passionate about providing the most inspirational design and advanced technology to give you the best fire. We strive to care for Australia and its environment, and we are proud to be at the forefront of a new generation of clean burning, ultra-efficient wood fires”.

Masport Heating manufacture a wide range of models, but do not appear to make the Auckland stove any longer. Their models include a cylindrical stove called the Adena, a cassette stove called the Inveral, a type of Jetmaster open fire configuration called the Ligna and two types of pot belly stoves called the Klondike and the Pitsburgh Mk II. They also produce an extensive range of freestanding stoves including the Rosewood, Redwood, Redcliff, Rubyvale, Rockwood, Romsey, Riverstone, Ravenhall, Clunes, Curlewis, Creswick, and the Westcott 1000, 2000 and 3000.