Apprenticeship agreement between Thomas Stirling of the parish of St. Giles in the Fields, London, and George Hardy, chimney sweep, of St. Marylebone
Climbing boys were sent up chimneys to clean them. Although there were fewer of them than other child workers their sufferings captured the imagination of campaigners against child labour from the late 18th century. With their soot covered faces they were often compared to slaves and were popularly believed to have been ‘sold’ or stolen from their families.
Stirling’s 9 year old son, also called Thomas, is bound as an apprentice to Hardy for seven years, to learn ‘the Art and Mystery of a Chimney Sweeper’. At the end of the agreement Hardy promises not to force him ‘to Climb or go up any Chimney which shall be actually on Fire, not make use of violent or improper Means to force him to climb or go up any Chimney’. He promises to treat the boy with ‘as much Humanity and Care as the Nature of the Employment of a Chimney Sweeper will admit of’.
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