The Chimney Sweep
Richard Vine's family have been chimney-sweeps for five generations. His greatgreat-grandfather set up business 150 years ago in Barnes, where he plied his trade with a horse and cart. Richard himself started to help in the family firm when he was 12, and at first his work consisted mostly of removing and tightening redhot nuts and bolts prior to cleaning industrial boilers, rather than sweeping chimneys. The eighties fashion for restoring open fireplaces, however, brought new business for Richard, and he now uses an industrial vacuum cleaner in combination with the traditional malacca canes and bristled brushes.
Sweeps have been thought of as lucky charms ever since the days of George II, whose life, it is said, was saved when a chimney sweep halted his bolting horses. The King pronounced that from then on sweeps would bring good luck. Richard can earn a handsome fee for attending weddings in this capacity, but feels a little silly doing so and prefers to stick to cleaning chimneys instead.
There are just 600 chimney sweeps in the country today, compared to the 25,000 to be found in Victorian England. Richard's four daughters are still small and his brother is a tree surgeon, so the mantle of keeping up the family tradition falls on him. He is happy to carry on the work and says cheerfully: "You never know, one of my children might want to take it on." A rare breed indeed.
Richard Vine, 28 Clifford Road, Richmond, Surrey TW10 7EA, (0181) 332 6373. He charges approximately £25 per chimney.
All manner of clocks are made, mended and restored by Lionel Blowes using time-honoured methods and tools.
Lionel Blowes found his vocation at the age of 13. Nearly 40 years later, he is unique in his craft. His first big job was for E Dent & Co in Pall Mall, the company that made Big Ben's famous clock in 1854, but for the past two decades he has worked from home in the house where he was born.
Silent, save for the ticking of clocks, Lionel's workshop is as neat as a pin. Tiny chests of drawers hold small tools and tins with labels such as "black dial wax". Every screw, bolt and nut is made by hand from steel and brass - the only part of a clock that he doesn"t make himself is the glass.
Lionel makes, restores and repairs clocks of all ages, types and sizes, painstakingly making new dials and hands, copying the old ones meticulously and cutting the filigree shapes by hand. He does not work with watches and does not advertise.
Lionel Blowes FBHI, PO Box 6625, London E7 8RR