HE DIED ON THIS DAY IN 1813 199 YEARS AGO
YOU WILL FIND HIS STORY HARD TO CREDIT - BUT IT IS SADLY TRUE:
|A CLIMBING BOY AND HIS MASTER|
EX LIBRIS:” THE FABER BOOK OF REPORTAGE II -"The Climbing Boy"
“The regular reader (I believe there is one!) will recall that I offered an extract from the FABER BOOK OF REPORTAGE only a short while ago concerning the loss of H.M.S. Queen Mary at the Battle of Jutland in WW I. But the book is such a rich source of interesting stories, that I thought you deserve at least one more. And so I offer you "The Climbing Boy":
DEATH OF A CLIMBING BOY, 29th March, 1813
Evidence taken before The Parliamentary Committee on Climbing Boys, 1817
In 1817 a Committee of the House of Commons recommended that the use of climbing boys be prohibited, but the recommendation was not carried into effect.
On Monday morning, 29th March 1813, a chimney sweeper of the name of Griggs attended to sweep a small chimney in the brew house of Messrs. Calvert & Co. In Upper Thames Street; he was accompanied by one of his boys, a lad of about eight years of age, of the name of Thomas Pitt. The fire had been lighted as early as 2 o'clock the same morning, and was burning on the arrival of Griggs and his little boy at eight. The fireplace was small, and an iron pipe projected from the grate some little way into the flue. This the master was acquainted with (having swept the chimneys in the brew house for some years), and therefore had a tile or two broken from the roof, in order that the boy might descend the chimney. He had no sooner extinguished the fire than he suffered the lad to go down; and the consequence, as might be expected, was his almost immediate death, in a state, no doubt, of inexpressible agony. The flue was of the narrowest description, and must have retained heat sufficient to prevent the child's return to the top, even supposing he had not approached the pipe belonging to the grate, which must have been nearly red hot; this however was not clearly ascertained on the inquest, though the appearance of the body would induce an opinion that he had been unavoidably pressed against the pipe. Soon after his descent, the master, who remained on the top, was apprehensive that something had happened, and therefore desired him to come up; the answer of the boy was “I cannot come up master, I must die here". An alarm was given in the brewhouse immediately that he had stuck in the chimney, and a bricklayer who was at work near the spot attended, and after knocking down part of the brickwork of the chimney, just above the fireplace, made a hole sufficiently large to draw him through. A surgeon attended, but all attempts to restore life were ineffectual. On inspecting the body, various burns appeared; the fleshy part of the legs and a great part of the feet more particularly were injured; those parts too by which climbing boys most effectually ascend or descend chimneys, viz. the elbows and knees, seemed burnt to the bone; from which it must be evident that the unhappy sufferer made some attempts to return as soon as the horrors of his situation became apparent. "
What can we say, in the face of this horrible event? And in the face of the equally horrible failure of the Parliament to act to protect these little ones? This was only 200 years ago, scarcely three modern lifetimes, and in "England's green and pleasant land" the Protestant new "Jerusalem".
It is, for me at least, impossible not to be moved near to tears on reading, and even now after a few years, on re-reading, this starkly tragic story.
I have had it in mind to do this post for several days, and was particularly impressed by the contrast in circumstances of the little boy Thomas Pitt and those of an Anglican clergyman, no great Church dignitary, or noble ,the Rev'd John Simpson, who was born some years earlier and died in his eighties about the same time as poor little Thomas.
|PARSON JOHN SIMPSON'S HOME STOKE HALL DERBYSHIRE|
This parson had built himself a mansion of thirty rooms now known as Stoke Hall which featured on a BBC “HOME RESTORATION" programme screened here last night. The house was sumptuously decorated, in conception grand, aping the stately homes of England and especially nearby Chatsworth. How obscene that someone earning his income from rents on surrounding Church land (probably stolen at the time of the Protestant Deformation) should use this income for personal aggrandizement and not for religious works. His will, which was granted Probate about the time poor little Thomas died, was a compilation of his vast wealth , once again , largely the result of Church lands, but bequeathed to his family in the greater part - obscene and in reality corrupt, bringing to mind Anthony Trollope's "Barchester Chronicles".