Today the open fire and wood burner has forced itself back into fashion.
David is the third generation of his family to take up the traditional trade.
Armed with his rods, brushes, vacuum cleaner and sheets this former carpenter has swept chimneys on and off since being taught by his father at the age of 14. But he only turned full-time when he took over his Dad’s business on his retirement 15 years ago.
“When l started out there were no training courses and you learn everything on the job.”
Mr Harrison belongs to National Association of Chimneys Sweeps which has 300 members with certificates issued, as well as being HETAS Approved Member.
David says there are so many different fires and fireplaces to learn about, it was a real knack knowing how to handle the rods and know what your brushes were doing. At that time everyone was going over to gas heating and I couldn’t see a future in sweeping chimneys so I served a five year apprenticeship as a carpenter. I kept my hand in sweeping at weekends and the odd day during the week in between doing carpentry. Mr Harrisons’ wife is his business partner, handling all the administration while he visit customers in Bedfordshire, Buckingham and Hertfordshire as well as Northamptonshire.
His equipment has change little from his grandfather’s day, David was however, one of the first in the area to suck out soot and debris with an industrial vacuum cleaner. Some jobs involve going onto the roof, as well as cleaning chimneys and open fires and flues David also fits chimney pots and bird guards and cowls.
The shortest chimney David has done to date was 8ft at a holiday home and the tallest was a 76ft exercise tower at the Bedford fire station.
Among stately homes David has swept is Mentmore House near Leighton Buzzard, a mansion owned by the Rothschild family which is now used as the setting for TV and film productions.
Mr Harrison prides himself on being a “clean” sweep. The soot he collects is bagged up and given to allotment holders for their gardens as it helps break down the clay and slugs hate it. Soot has a distinct aroma but you get accustomed to it, David can tell just by looking at the soot what fuel people are burning.
Blockages by birds’ nests are a common problem, David has experienced chimneys that have had over a dozen loads of twigs and straw in them, that is why he always recommends having a bird cowl fitted.