The Fireplace

Barrie cementing 4


This morning I printed my pdf download of ‘Bits of a Boyhood’, Bruce Goodman’s story of his growing up in rural New Zealand, that he has generously provided free of charge. Bruce is such a good storyteller that I know I will enjoy it.

Fireplace originally

Barry and Owen of New Forest Chimney Sweeping completed the fitting of our fireplace dating from the turn of the 20th century.  This is what they began with.


The way these two men began by laying out their tools and equipment indicates the thoroughness with which they approach their work.

Everything was therefore available as soon as it was needed.

Two heads are better than one

Barry is clearly the master craftsman, and Owen the apprentice, but the father seeks the son’s views along the way. Two heads, it would seem, are better than one. Before they began they drove off to purchase the fireback, seen here lodged in place.

Next came lining up the fireplace and surround. This was a process that was continually being repeated as they went along.

Screws were applied to the carved wooden surround,

Applying brackets to surround

to which brackets were fitted prior to fixing it to the brickwork.

Holes were then drilled into the cast ironwork.

Owen took a hacksaw to the fireplace while Barry continued with the brackets,

 which the father then trimmed.

Lifting surround

The whole structure was then lifted into place,

Checking the fit 1

then securely fixed, when Barry carefully checked the fit.

Spirit level

Note the spirit level.

Owen cementing

Owen then cemented the inside space,

and Barry provided a level and beautifully smooth floor,

Testing the draw

finally testing the draw to his satisfaction.

Baz and Owen attending wedding 2008

The services of no chimney sweep are complete without attendance at weddings, thus bringing good luck to the bride and groom. This photograph was produced in 2008, when Owen was rather smaller. It is one of a bound collection kept for display.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s classic chicken jalfrezi, savoury rice, onion bahjis, and a paratha. Jackie drank more of the Vernaccia di San Gimignano and I drank Cimarosa reserva privada carmenΓ¨re 2015.

Published by derrickjknight

I am an octogenarian enjoying rambling physically and photographing what I see, and rambling in my head as memories are triggered. I also ramble through a lifetime's photographs. In these later years much rambling is done in a car.

89 thoughts on “The Fireplace

  1. Great post, Derrick – LOVE the fireplace – What a lot of work it took to get it all installed. Do they carry that book of photos around with them – or did they like you so much they invited you to their house?

      1. Most excellent picture. I guess they are ok about being blogged about. I never heard that thing about having a chimney sweep at a wedding. Perhaps a mention of it in Mary Poppins, but I was busy with 3 kids and not open to such nuances at the time.

  2. I am in awe. The father wore a tie, both men took off their shoes and they did a job worthy of a master. Well, they are masters. I applaud them. I respect them. Hope they see this post.
    The picture of Owen, considerably shorter, has to be in the top ten of charming pictures.

    Here in the USA, “they” are fighting about the health care plan. Several people have telephoned into Public Radio and asked why nothing is being done about lowering the cost of drugs to which the government official said that they won’t be lowered because the drug companies have all donated large amounts of money to the senator political campaigns.

    I really needed to see something about good, honest, people who have dignity and take pride in a job well done. Thank you, Barrie and Owen, and Derrick for bringing it to us.

    1. Wouldn’t mind flighing over to the States to Sweep a few chimneys ayy πŸ˜‰ was a pleasure working alongside Derrick & Jackie what a cheerful couple they are ! Great job well done Dad 😁 Thank you for that lovely comment Ginene

  3. It is so nice to see real craftsmen who take pride and care with their work. The spirit level and chimney draw photos are proof enough. I didn’t know about their ‘secondary job’ as lucky talismans (talismen?) at weddings. I suppose everything has to be given time to set and cure, and of course the actual grid has to go in yet, but I hope you get to enjoy a fire or two before the weather gets too warm.
    PS I read ‘Bits of a Boyhood’ in 2015 and thoroughly enjoyed it. Bruce captured the time and places beautifully.

  4. Great to see father and son working so well together and better still the father asking questions of his son along the way. That’s a version of the Socratic method in action and the very best way to learn a trade.

    1. Many thanks, Merril. The sweeps at weddings is a very old custom – about 200 years ago a chimney sweep saved the life of King George II, who then conveyed the honour on him

      1. One site does give it as George III. The story seems to be that a stray dog nipping the legs of his horse set the animal rearing and a sweep came from the crowd and got it under control.

  5. This is fascinating. I noticed the level on the mantel on the first shot. Goodness, the craft. Now, will you burn wood, coal, what in this? It looks small for wood, but I grew up with a large fireplace, so my ideas of size may be a bit warped. I liked that he tested the draw.

      1. I can imagine, what with the forest nearby. My father used to walk through the woods and note the dead trees each year and cut those for the fire.

  6. Every new years day our coalman used to deliver a cwt of coal. like the chimney sweep they were thought to bring good luck and our coleman always received his glass of whisky, tradition I believe.
    Probably finished the day drunk as a lord

  7. 1. Yes, you will enjoy Bruce’s book.
    2. I’ve never seen a craftsman at work in a shirt and tie, like Barrie!
    3. I highly approve of the wine choices

  8. Lovely to see more pictures of your lovely fireplace.. and I am smiling at the wedding photo’s that the chimney sweep was at that beautiful wedding.. I hope all is well with you Derrick.. πŸ™‚ love and blessings Sue πŸ™‚

  9. Looks really nice, Derrick. They did a great job. The mention of chimney=sweeps takes me back to my childhood years. Everything had to be covered up in readiness for his arrival. My sister and I then used to stand outside to watch for the brush appearing out of the top of the chimney-pot. πŸ™‚

  10. That fireplace and mantelpiece are similar to the one which was in my bedroom at home (which in turn had been the living room prior), except my mantelpiece wasn’t carved and the tiles not quite so fancy. Only pretty thing in the house, as I mentioned in my book. But I did love it, even though I never used it. For one reason or another though, I still have a timber coal scuttle, and despite moving several times over the years, it always come with me – complete with the same load of coal it has held for over fifty years πŸ™‚ You have to admire a tradesmen in a tie. I couldn’t imagine ever seeing one of those in Australia. Nor one in long pants. Ours prefer shorts complete with a builder’s crack.

  11. Amazing craftsmanship Derrick – gorgeous work and end result. You guys will have many wonderful evenings sitting in front of roaring fires.

  12. I cannot even properly pronounce what you ate and drank but surely it was tasty…! Love the wedding picture. Glad you now have a lovely finished fireplace. I did not know that one can burn coal in an open fireplace–I thought it gave off poisonous fumes…(this is referring to the most recent post– I forgot to ask it then…)

  13. Good evening all,it’s Barry The chimney sweep,i have read this many times it makes me smile very much,im very humble to hear all your kind words.Im not a lover of social media to be honest maybe I should change some of my ways.Once again thank you to you all ohh should you like to be friends my face book page is Barry Chislett-Bruce.I also sing choral,classical and opera and race motor bikes!! Good evening to you all and a very special thanks to Derick and Jackie x

  14. A tradesman (or should that be craftsman?) who shows up for work in shirtsleeves and a tie??

    What manner of wizardry is this?? πŸ˜‰

    It would NEVER happen in Oz!

    A most impressive fireplace that is. πŸ™‚

    1. Barry is a real craftsman. He sweeps the chimney in the same clothes and leaves the place spotless. Note that they also take off their shoes. Thanks a lot, Bob

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