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Chimney sweeps - Climbing boys

Victorian children working as 'climbing boys'

Charlie is another of the children sleeping rough at Billingsgate Market. He explains how he started out at Covent Garden, where his father was a street act with a special trick - allowing bystanders to break a stone on his chest with a sledge hammer.

But one day it all goes wrong...and Charlie is left an orphan.

Charlie spends a final night in the cramped lodging house where he lived with his father. A boy there offers to help Charlie find a job as a sweeper, only to steal Charlie's jacket. Then a passing sweep spots Charlie and seeing that he's about the right size to become a 'climbing boy' offers Charlie a job working with him.

Charlie then recounts his early experiences as a chimney sweep - the constant choking from soot, the cramped spaces, the painful knees and elbows, the fear of being trapped...

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