Acts of Parliament
See the index for the full list of Acts relating to children, schools and education and for notes on the texts.
Chimney Sweepers Act 1788
This was the first of six Acts regulating the work of chimney sweepers. It set the minimum age at which boys could be employed to climb and clean chimneys at 8 years.
The 1834 Act repealed the 1788 Act and set the minimum age for climbing chimneys at 10 years.
The 1840 Act allowed 16 year olds to be apprentices, but no one under 21 was to climb chimneys.
The 1864 Act allowed 10 year olds to be employed, but no one under 16 was to be present when chimneys were being swept.
The 1875 Act required all chimney sweepers to obtain a certificate of authorisation from the local chief officer of police.
The 1894 Act prohibited chimney sweepers from 'cold calling' (as it is known today) to sell their services.
See also the 1938 Chimney Sweepers Acts (Repeal) Act.
For more on this subject see Chimney Sweep (Wikipedia).
ab initio: from the beginning
The text of the Chimney Sweepers Act 1788 was prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 2 January 2020.
Chimney Sweepers Act 1788
© Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.
An Act for the better Regulation of Chimney Sweepers, and their Apprentices.
'WHEREAS the Laws now in being respecting Masters and Apprentices do not provide sufficient Regulations, so as to prevent various complicated Miseries, to which Boys employed in climbing and cleansing of Chimneys are liable, beyond any other Employment whatsoever, in which Boys of tender Years are engaged: And whereas the Misery of the said Boys might be much alleviated, if some legal Powers and Authorities were given for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers and their Apprentices:' May it therefore please your Majesty that it may be enacted; and be it enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the Authority of the same,
Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor, with Consent of two Justices, may bind Boys chargeable, &c. Apprentices to Chimney Sweepers.
That, from and after the fifth Day of July one thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight, it shall and may be lawful to and for the Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor, for the Time being, of the several and respective Parishes, Townships, or Places, within the Kingdom of Great Britain, by and with the Consent and Approbation of two or more of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace, acting in and for any County, Riding, City, Town Corporate, Borough, or Division, within Great Britain (such Consent and Approbation to be signified by such Justices in Writing, under their Hands, according to the Form prescribed by the Indenture contained in the Schedule hereunto annexed), to bind or put out any Boy or Boys, who is, are, or shall be of the Age of eight Years or Upwards; and who is, are, or shall be chargeable, or whose Parents are or shall become chargeable to the Parish or Parishes, or Places, where they shall so be; or who shall beg for Alms; or by and with the Consent of the Parent or Parents of such Boy or Boys, to be Apprentice and Apprentices to any Person or Persons using or exercising the Trade, Business, or Mystery of a Chimney Sweeper, for so long Time, and until such Boy or Boys shall attain or come to the Age of sixteen Years; and such Binding out any such Apprentice and Apprentices, shall be as effectual in the Law, to all Intents and Purposes, as if such Boy or Boys was or were of full Age, and by Indenture had bound himself or themselves an Apprentice or Apprentices.
The Age of the Apprentice to be inserted in the Indenture.
II. And, to the end that the Time of the Continuance of the Service of such Apprentice or Apprentices may plainly and certainly appear; be it further enacted, That the Age of every such Boy or Boys, so to be bound Apprentice or Apprentices, shall be mentioned and inserted in such Indenture, being taken truly from the Copy of the Entry in the Register Book, wherein the Time of his or their being baptized is or shall be entered (where the same can or may be had); which Copy shall be given and attested by the Minister, Vicar, or Curate of such Parish or Parishes, or Places wherein such Boy or Boys Baptism shall be registered, without Fee or reward, and may be written upon Paper or Parchment, without any Stamp or Mark; and where no such Copy of such Boy or Boys being baptized can be had, such Justices of the Peace shall, as fully as they can, inform themselves of his or their Age or Ages, and from such Information shall insert the same in the said Indenture; and the Age of such Boy or Boys, so inserted and mentioned in the said Indenture (in Relation to the Continuance of his or their Service) shall be taken to be his or their true Age or Ages, without any further Proof thereof.
Reference to the Form of the Indenture in the Schedule.
III. And, to the End and Intent that there may be no Doubt or Uncertainty as to the Form of the Indenture, by which such Boy or Boys shall be bound Apprentice or Apprentices as aforesaid, and that the Stipulations and Agreements to be made and entered into by the said Master or Mistress may plainly and fully appear; be it enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That such Indenture shall be made and written out according to the Form in the Schedule hereunto annexed, and that the same shall not be charged with, or liable to, the Payment of any higher or other Stamp Duty, than is now charged upon Indentures for binding out poor Children by their respective Parishes or Places; any Law or Statute to the contrary notwithstanding.
Penalty on Persons taking Apprentices under the Age of 8 Years.
IV. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all Indentures, Covenants, Promises, and Bargains, hereafter to be made, or taken, of or for the having, taking, employing, retaining, or keeping of any Boy or Boys, as or in the Nature of an Apprentice or Apprentices, or Servant or Servants, employed in the Capacity of a Climbing Boy or Chimney Sweeper, who shall be under the Age of eight Years as aforesaid, than is by this Act limited, ordained, and appointed, shall be absolutely void in the Law to all Intents and Purposes: And that every Person who shall from henceforth have, take, employ, retain, or keep, any such Boy or Boys, as or in the Nature of an Apprentice or Apprentices, or Servant employed in the Capacity of a Climbing Boy or Chimney Sweeper as aforesaid, who shall be under the Age of eight Years as aforesaid, contrary to the Tenor and true Meaning of this Act, and being convicted thereof, as herein after mentioned, shall forfeit and pay for every such Apprentice or Servant, so by him or her had, taken, employed, retained, or kept, any Sum not exceeding ten Pounds. nor less than five Pounds.
'V. And whereas, in many large Parishes within this Realm, there are several Townships or Villages, and Overseers of the Poor are chosen and appointed within and for each such Township or Village respectively;' be it therefore further enacted by the Authority aforesaid,
Overseers of the Poor of any Township or Village may act as Churchwardens.
That the Overseers of the Poor of every such Township or Village, shall and may from Time to Time, within every such Township or Village, do, perform, and execute, all and every the Acts, Powers, and Authorities hereby enacted or directed to be done, performed, or executed by the Churchwardens or Overseers of the Poor of a Parish or Place; any Thing herein, or in any other Law or Laws, contained to the contrary in anywise notwithstanding.
Justices to determine Complaints between Masters and Apprentices.
VI. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That it shall and may be lawful for one or more such Justice or Justices, and he or they shall have full Power and Authority, and is and are hereby authorised and empowered to inquire into and examine, hear, and determine, as well all Complaints of hard or ill Usage from the several and respective Masters or Mistresses, to whom such Apprentice and Apprentices shall be so bound as aforesaid, as also all Complaints of such Boys as already have, or who shall at any Time hereafter voluntarily put themselves Apprentices to such Trade, Business, or Mystery of a Chimney Sweeper as aforesaid; and in like Manner also to enquire into and examine, hear, and determine all Complaints of Masters or Mistresses against such Apprentice and Apprentices, and to make such Orders therein respectively, as he or they is or are now enabled by Law to do in other Cases between Masters and Apprentices.
Not more than 6 Apprentices at the same time.
VII. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That no Person or Persons using or exercising the Trade, Business, or Mystery of a Chimney Sweeper, shall retain, keep, or employ any more than six Apprentices at one and the same Time; and that the Name of every Person so taking or receiving an Apprentice or Apprentices as aforesaid, and also the Place of his or her Abode, shall be marked or put upon a Brass Plate, to be set or affixed in the Front of a Leathern Cap, which every Master or Mistress shall provide for each such Apprentice, and which he shall wear when out upon his Duty; and that every Master or Mistress shall forfeit for every Apprentice so retained, kept, or employed by him or her beyond the Number limited by this Act, or for neglecting to provide each such Apprentice which such Leathern Cap, and Brass Plate to be so affixed thereupon, and marked with his or her Name and Place of Abode as aforesaid, contrary to the true Intent and Meaning of this Act, any Sum not exceeding the Sum of ten Pounds, nor less than five Pounds.
Penalty on the Master for Breach of any of the Covenants specified in the Indenture.
VIII. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That if any such Master or Mistress shall misuse or evil treat his or her Apprentice, or that the said Apprentice shall have any just Cause to complain of the Forfeiture or Breach of any of the Covenants, Clauses, or Agreements, to be expressed and contained in such Indenture, made and written out according to the Form in the Schedule hereunto annexed, on the Part and Behalf of such Master or Mistress, then, and in such Case, such Master or Mistress, being convicted thereof in Manner herein-after mentioned, shall forfeit and pay, for every such Offence, any Sum not exceeding ten Pounds, nor less than five Pounds.
The Boys shall not be let out to Hire, nor to call the Streets before a certain Time.
IX. And be it further enacted, That no Person or Persons using or exercising the Trade, Business, or Mystery of a Chimney Sweeper, shall let out to Hire, or lend by the Day or otherwise, to any other Person for the Purpose of sweeping Chimneys, any Boy or Boys that are already Apprentice or Apprentices, or that shall hereafter be bound Apprentice or Apprentices, under the Directions of this Act, nor shall cause such Boy or Boys to call the Streets before Seven of the Clock in the Morning, nor after Twelve of the Clock at Noon, between Michaelmas and Lady-Day; nor before Five of the Clock in the Morning, nor after Twelve of the Clock at Noon, between Lady-Day and Michaelmas; and that if any Master or Mistress shall, after the passing of this Act, offend in any of the Cases aforesaid, he or she shall forfeit and pay, for every such Offence, any Sum not exceeding ten Pounds, nor less than five Pounds.
Convictions for Penalties and Forfeitures to be made before one or more Justices of the Peace.
X. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all Convictions for Penalties and Forfeitures, by this Act imposed for any Offence against the same, shall be made before one or more Justice or Justices of the Peace acting for the County, Riding, City, Town, Borough, or Division, where such Offence was committed, either by Confession of the Offender, or upon the Oath of one or more credible Witness or Witnesses; and for that Purpose it shall be lawful for one or more such Justice or Justices, upon Complaint made to him or them thereof, to summon the Person or Persons so offending before him or them to answer to such Complaint, in such Manner as he or they is and are authorised to do in any other Matter cognizable before a Magistrate.
Penalties how to be levied and applied.
XI. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That all Penalties and Forfeitures, by this Act imposed for any Offence, Neglect, or Default against the same, and all Costs and Charges to be al-
lowed and ordered by the Authority of this Act, shall be levied by Distress and Sale of the Goods and Chattels of the Offender, or Person liable or ordered to pay the same respectively, by Warrant under the Hand and Seal of one or more such Justice or Justices of the Peace, acting for the County, Riding, City, Town, Borough, or Division, where such Offence, Neglect, or Default shall happen; and such Order for Payment of such Costs or Charges shall be made, rendering the Overplus of such Distress and Sale (if any) to the Party or Parties, after deducting the Charges of making the same; which Warrant such Justice or Justices is and are hereby empowered and required to grant, upon Conviction of the Offender, by Confession, or upon the Oath of one or more credible Witness or Witnesses, or upon Order made as aforesaid; and the Penalties and Forfeitures, Costs and Charges, when so levied, shall be paid, the one Half to the Informer, and the other Half to the Overseers of the Poor of the Parish, Township, or Place, where the Master or Mistress of such Apprentice shall dwell and inhabit; and in case such Distress cannot be found, and such Penalties and Forfeitures, or the said Costs or Charges, shall not be forthwith paid, it shall and may be lawful for such Justice or Justices, and he and they is and are hereby authorised and required, by Warrant under his or their Hand and Seal, or Hands and Seals, to commit such Offender or Offenders, or Person or Persons liable to pay the same respectively, to the Common Gaol or House of Correction of the County, Riding, City, Town, Borough, or Division, where the Offence shall be committed, or such Order as aforesaid shall be made, for any Time not exceeding three Months, unless the said Penalty, Forfeiture, Costs, or Charges, shall respectively be sooner paid.
No Warrant of Distress to be issued until six Days after the Conviction.
XII. Provided nevertheless, That no Warrant of Distress shall be issued for levying any Penalty or Forfeiture, Costs or Charges, until six Days after the Offender shall have been convicted, and an Order made and served upon him or her for Payment thereof.
Distress not unlawful for want of Form, &c.
XIII. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That where any Distress shall be made for any Sum or Sums of Money, to be levied by virtue of this Act, the Distress itself shall not be deemed unlawful, nor the Party or Parties making the same be deemed a Trespasser or Trespassers, on account of any Default or want of Form in any Proceedings relating thereto; nor shall the Party or Parties distraining be deemed a Trespasser or Trespassers ab initio, on account of any Irregularity which shall be afterwards done by the Party or Parties distraining; but the Person or Persons aggrieved by such Irregularity may recover a full Satisfaction for the Special Damage in an Action on the Case.
Plaintiff not to recover for any Irregularity, if Tender of sufficient Amends be made.
XIV. Provided always, That no Plaintiff or Plaintiffs shall recover in any Action for any such Irregularity, Trespass, or wrongful Proceedings, if Tender of sufficient Amends shall be made by or on the Behalf of the Party or Parties who shall have committed, or caused to have been committed, any such Irregularity or wrongful Proceedings, before such Action brought; and in case no such Tender shall have been made, it shall and may be lawful for the Defendant in any such Action, by Leave of the Court where such Action shall depend, at any Time before Issue joined, to pay into Court such Sum of Money as he or they shall see fit, whereupon such Proceedings or Orders and Judgments shall be had, made, and given, in and by such Court, as in other Actions where the Defendant is allowed to pay Money into Court.
Justices to administer Oaths.
XV. And be it further enacted, That where any Oath is hereby required and directed to be taken, the Justice or Justices of the Peace of the County, Riding, City, Town, Borough, or Division, where the Offence shall be committed, shall administer, and he or they is and are hereby respectively impowered to administer the same.
Persons aggrieved may appeal, &c.
XVI. Provided always, and be it further enacted, That if any Person shall think himself or herself aggrieved by any Thing done by any Justice or Justices of the Peace, in pursuance of this Act, such Person may appeal to the Justices of the Peace at the next General or Quarter Sessions of the Peace to be holden for the County, Riding, City, Town, Borough, or Division, wherein the Cause of such Complaint shall arise, having first entered into a Recognizance, with sufficient Surety, before such Justices, to prosecute and abide by the Order or Orders that shall be made on such Appeal, and also giving, or causing to be given, to the Justice by whose Act or Acts such Person shall think himself or herself aggrieved, Notice in Writing of his or her Intention to bring such Appeal, and of the Matter thereof, within six Days after the Cause of such Complaint shall have arisen.
XVII. And be it further enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That this Act shall be deemed, adjudged, and taken to be a Publick Act; and be judicially taken notice of as such by all Judges, Justices, and other Persons whomsoever, without specially pleading the same.
THIS INDENTURE, made the ____ Day of ____ in the ____ Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. and in the Year of our Lord ____ BETWEEN A. B. and C. D. Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor of the Parish of ____ in the County of ____ [or E. F. the Father or next Friend of the Boy to be placed out, as the Case may be] of the one Part; and ____ of the Parish of ____ in the County of ____ Chimney Sweeper, of the other Part: WITNESSETH, That the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor [or the said E. F. as the Case may be], by and with the Consent and Approbation of G. H. and I. K. Two of his Majesty's Justices of
the Peace acting in and for the County, Riding, City, Town, Borough, or Division [as the Case may be] signified as hereunder written, ____ put, bound, and by these Presents ____ put and bind ____ a poor Boy of the said Parish, Township, or Place, being of the Age of ____ Years [as the Case may be], to be Apprentice to the said ____ he being his first, second, third, fourth, fifth, or sixth Apprentice [as the Case may be], to learn the Trade, Business, Art, and Mystery of a Chimney Sweeper, and with him (or her) to dwell, remain, and serve from the Day of the Date of these Presents, for and during the Term of ____ Years from hence next ensuing, fully to be complete and ended; during all which Time he the said ____ Apprentice, his said Master (or Mistress) faithfully shall serve and obey, his (or her) Secrets keep, and his (or her) lawful Commands every where gladly do and perform; he shall not haunt Alehouses or Gaming Houses, nor absent himself from the service of his said Master (or Mistress) Day or Night, without his (or her) Leave, but in all Things as a faithful Apprentice shall behave himself towards his said Master (or Mistress) and all his (or her) during the said Term: And the said ____ in Consideration of the Good Will which he (or she) hath and beareth towards the said Apprentice, and of the faithful Service so to be performed by him, doth hereby covenant, promise, and agree with the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor [or the said E. F. as the Case may be], that he (or she) the said ____ his (or her) said Apprentice, in the Art and Mystery of a Chimney Sweeper, which he (or she) now useth, shall and will teach and instruct, or cause to be taught and instructed, in the best Manner that he (or she) can, and shall and will provide and allow unto the said Apprentice, during all the said Term, competent and sufficient Meat, Drink, Washing, Lodging, Apparel, and all other Things necessary for the said Apprentice: And that the said ____ Executors, Administrators, or Assigns, shall not nor will assign over this present Indenture, or the Apprentice to be bound thereby, without the Consent and Approbation, in Writing, of two or more such Justices of the Peace to be signified according to the Form of the Approbation hereunder written. AND WHEREAS, from the Nature of the Business or Employment of a Chimney Sweeper, it is necessary for the Boys, employed in Climbing, to have a Dress particularly suited to that Purpose, which Dress is only fit for that Part of the Occupation; the said ____ doth hereby also covenant, promise, and agree to and with the said Churchwardens and Overseers of the Poor [or the said E. F. as the Case may be], to find and allow such suitable Dress for the said Apprentice, as often as Need or Occasion shall be and require, and provide for, and deliver to the said Apprentice, once in every Year at least, during the Term aforesaid, over and above the said Dress proper for Climbing, one whole and compleat Suit of Clothing, with suitable Linen, Stockings, Hats, and Shoes: AND FURTHER, that the said ____ shall and will, at least once in every Week, cause the said Apprentice to be thoroughly washed and cleansed from Soot and Dirt, and shall and will require the said Apprentice to attend the Publick Worship of God on the Sabbath Day, and permit and allow him to receive the Benefit of any other religious Instruction; and that the said Apprentice shall not wear his Sweeping Dress on that Day: And that the said ____ shall not nor will compel or oblige the said Apprentice to call the Streets, or any other Places, before Seven of the Clock in the Morning, nor after Twelve of the Clock at Noon, between Michaelmas and Lady-Day, nor before Five of the Clock in the Morning, nor after Twelve of the Clock at Noon, between Lady-Day and Michaelmas: And that the said ____ shall not, nor will at any Time during the said Term, let out his (or her) said Apprentice for Hire by the Day, Night, or otherwise, to any other Person or Persons exercising or using the said Trade, nor shall the said ____ or any Person or Persons whomsoever by his (or her) Directions, require or force him the said Apprentice to climb or go up any Chimney which shall be actually on Fire, nor make use of any violent or improper Means to force him to climb or go up any such Chimney; but shall in all Things treat his (or her) said Apprentice with as much Humanity and Care as the nature of the Employment of a Chimney Sweeper will admit of. IN WITNESS, &c.
WE, the above-named G. H. and I. K. two of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace acting in and for the County, Riding, City, Town, Borough, or Division [as the Case may be], having inspected and examined the above-named ____ [the Boy to be placed out or assigned over], do hereby consent to, and approve of his being bound [or assigned over] as an Apprentice to the above-named ____ (the Master or Mistress] according to the Terms and Stipulations expressed in the above-written Indenture.