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Sevenoaks: surprising nuggets

James the Sweep enjoys his role as Master Chimney Sweep for Sevenoaks, the flagship town which gives its name to the Sevenoaks District. There are many facets of Sevenoaks which are known to the wider public with its splendid shopping centre and busy community. And, of course, the famous oak trees that were sadly ravaged by the great storm of 1987.

But there are also aspects of Sevenoaks which may surprise you or historical nuggets, which have been largely forgotten. Residents who have lived in the town for many years will likely know these historical events. Yet they add to the overall charm of this wonderful town, known for its landscape of quaint houses with chimneys galore located in a beautiful backdrop of the Kentish countryside.

There are so many stories to choose from, of course, but here are just a few.

The Beatles [pictured] filmed scenes for their hits Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane in Knole Park. It happened in February 1967 when the famous stars took over part of the park to do some surreal things such as covering a piano in paint and leaping from dead trees. It wasn’t the only time that a location in the county of Kent featured in the Beatles’ videos. The pop group’s ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ involved filming at West Malling airfield over a five-day period with scenes such as a tug of war with local kids and a big dance scene. There were extra scenes shot at a newsagent in Maidstone’s High Street.

Knole Park was also connected to someone with a huge influence on the nation’s (arguably) most popular sport. Everyone knows the story about ‘Lumpy Stevens’, the first great bowler, bowling poor John Small an impressive thrice right through the stumps – which led to a middle stump being set up to stop this reoccurring, somewhat changing the game. It happened in 1777 although Sevenoaks has been playing host to cricket games since 1734.

Some people may not realise that Lumpy Stevens was, in fact, a gardener at Knole Park. Not only that, but other famous cricketers of the time were also employed by the estate: William Bowe, John Minshull and Joseph Miller.

And here’s another unusual fact related to cricket, while we’re on the subject. Sevenoaks Vine Cricket Club has a cricket bat dating back to 1745. Fair enough, you may think but why is that special? Because it was made by the Petts, a well-known family in Sevenoaks who are believed to be the first ever manufacturer of cricket bats.

Well, this is a short snapshot of interesting facts about Sevenoaks. If you know of any others, do let James the Sweep know and we can post them here in the blogs section of his website!

… She’s back!

Though I spends me time in the ashes and smoke
In this ‘ole wide world there’s no ‘appier bloke
Chim chiminey, chim chiminey, chim chim cher-ee!
Well, there’s a lot of excitement at the prospect of Mary Poppins Returns being released in cinemas on December 19 – some 54 years after the original film! Dick Van Dyke, now aged 92, stars again in the sequel as Mr Dawes Jr (having portrayed Mr Dawes Sr in the first film).
Of course, it is Bert the chimney sweep that Mr Van Dyke is most remembered for. Dancing on the rooftops, whirling his chimney brush and singing with gusto – Bert has become something of a cheerful symbol for sweeps. The public, even where James the Sweep works in Tunbridge Wells and nearby Kent outside of London, often conjure up the image of energetic Bert when they consider the imaginary notion of a chimney sweep.
Alas, Bert won’t be reappearing in Mary Poppins Returns. Street lamplighter Jack (played by Lin-Manuel Miranda) takes on the role of cheeky chap and romantic companion to Emily Blunt’s Mary Poppins. ‘Trip A Little Light Fantastic’ looks set to be the equivalent of ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ with Jack and other leeries (streetlamp lighters) doing a dance and song, which will definitely evoke memories of Bert and his fellow sweeps dancing and singing ‘Chim Chim Cher-ee’ in the original movie.

James the Sweep enjoys the romantic myth of chimney sweeping, which extends to other literary forms not just Ol’ Bert created by PL Travers in Mary Poppins. It has its origins of course in the Victorian era, when the plight of child sweeps slowly gained public attention. Sweeps were seen as something mysterious, belonging to another world. Even so, despite all the fun dancing and singing, chimney sweeping is a serious business that saves lives from the deadly risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. James the Sweep, although he always has a smile on his face, takes that professional challenge very seriously indeed.
I choose me bristles with pride
Yes, I do
A broom for the shaft and a brush for the flume
Up where the smoke is all billered and curled
‘Tween pavement and stars is the chimney sweep world

Carbon monoxide is a very real danger in your home!

We have to take on board, with the utmost respect, warnings about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. That’s the key message James the Sweep gives to customers, wherever they live in Kent or East Sussex: Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, Southborough or Maidstone and Crowborough, etc. It’s such an important message as well. Taking this seriously will protect your life, and the lives of your loved ones.

Talking about carbon monoxide in this context sounds like marketing spin. After all, James is the Master Sweep for T Wells and nearby areas. So, of course he would encourage people to sweep chimneys. This is his livelihood, after all… Yes, true. But James the Sweep is very serious about his profession and the importance of his profession.

If a firefighter gave you advice, do we say, ‘Well, he would, wouldn’t he? That’s his job.’ No! We respect the professional advice given by the fire service. Yes, James the Sweep wants to sweep your chimney. Yes, it’s his ‘job’. However, why does he choose chimney sweeping as his job? For the simple reason that he’s passionate about protecting people’s lives from unsafe indoor fire set-ups. Who would you rather see at your front door? A chimney sweep or a firefighter? The sweep, of course! Prevention is always better than cure.

Chimney sweeping is a very serious profession. If your chimney is not swept regularly, you and your family could die. It’s a blunt but true fact. Fire gases need a safe passage away from the indoor fire and out to the atmosphere. If the chimney is unclean with soot residue blockages, that stops carbon monoxide leaving. The invisible gas will roll back down the flue and back down inside your home. Read more here about the dangers of carbon monoxide.

Book a chimney sweep with James the Sweep today and keep safe from the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning!

10 reasons why I love sweeping in Tunbridge Wells

James the Sweep loves chimney sweeping in Kent and Sussex. It’s such a beautiful part of the world. There’s nothing better than tootling along in the Kentish countryside for a chimney sweep in Sevenoaks, Southborough or other towns and villages. Based in Tonbridge, James has a particular fondness for Tunbridge Wells, or rather, ROYAL Tunbridge Wells.

Here are 10 reasons why James loves working in T Wells:-

The residents. Are people in Tunbridge Wells different? Everyone knows the famous ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ letter, which has come to represent stuffy middle class England. EM Forster also wrote a negative viewpoint of the town in his novel, A Room with a View when Charlotte Bartlett said she was used to T Wells, ‘where we are all hopelessly behind the times’. – Now, listen, James the Sweep has been sweeping chimneys in T Wells for 20 years and those views of residents are NOT TRUE. Residents in T Wells are warm, friendly, hospitable and not judgemental. T Wells has a lovely community with people who are passionate about their town!

The ‘royal’ bit. Tunbridge Wells was just known as Tunbridge Wells until King Edward VII decided to give a royal charter (in 1909 if you must know) and henceforward the town was officially called Royal Tunbridge Wells. It’s actually very fitting because the general ambience of T Wells, whether it’s the Georgian/Victorian architecture or atmosphere, feels regal. T Wells looks and feels like a special town and the ‘royal’ prefix recognises that!

The Pantiles. There’s always a buzz about this town centre hub and nearby High Street. It has a relaxing feel to it, a bit like the Mediterranean. All sorts of cafes, eateries and independent shops thrive there. Located at the heart of the town, this Georgian-era walkway and colonnade was the epicentre for the landed gentry wanting to bathe in the town’s mineral waters, with the Chalybeate Spring at the northern part of the hub.

The Chalybeate Spring is the reason why T Wells developed. The popularity of the spring for noblemen and ladies dates back more than 400 years. The waters are high in iron and this was seen as good for all sorts of health conditions. Quite right too!

The Spa Valley Railway. The sight of one of these historic steam or diesel trains choo-chooing along the heritage railway line always makes you smile! Trains run from Tunbridge Wells Railway Station in the town itself to Eridge and High Rocks, Groombridge. It’s wonderful to have such an attraction
within T Wells itself.

Shopping non-stop. It’s not just The Pantiles that offers amazing shops. There’s the High Street (already mentioned) plus the Royal Victoria Shopping Centre and Calverley Precinct as well as Camden Road. Shops seem to be everywhere in T Wells!

Food – whatever you want, you’ll find it in Royal Tunbridge Wells! Old fashioned English food fare, Kentish specialities, Chinese, Sushi, Thai, Indian, numerous gasro pubs and the regular farmers’ market and other food fests. James the Sweep’s favourite is chimney cake, of course…

Nature. The town of Royal Tunbridge Wells is on the northern part of the High Weald. T Wells is surrounded by the beauty of the Kentish countryside and there are a number of parks in the town such as the Tunbridge Wells and Rusthall Commons and Calverley Ground. Tunbridge Wells Common, Grosvenor and Hilbert Park, Groombridge Place and Dunorlan Park are also worth a visit.

Arty stuff. Residents in T Wells love nothing better than joining in a music spectacle, laughing at a play and admiring museum exhibits. T Wells caters for all that with venues such as Trinity Arts Centre, The Forum and Assembly Hall Theatre.

Chimneys. That might be a surprise but from James the Sweep’s point of view, chimneys are a MUST on the list. For the simple reason that chimneys in T Wells are beautiful, whether in a terraced home, semi detached or detached, or a stately home.

Burn right and get it right with James the Sweep!

James the Sweep talking about the Burnright campaign on a Guild of Master Sweeps video

James the Sweep talking about the Burnright campaign on a Guild of Master Sweeps video

We all breathe the same air – and we all want that to be fresh air! That’s why James the Sweep has been delivering ‘Burnright’ brochures to customers all over Kent (Tunbridge Wells, Tonbridge, Sevenoaks, etc) and Sussex (Crowborough, etc) in the past month or two.

Why? Because James is passionate about residents and local businesses enjoying efficient wood fire stoves and open fires, alongside clean chimneys, which do not harm the local environment. He is often asked the same questions by residents about how to burn wood correctly and he’s happy to answer queries. But Burnright is a handy guide, which you can keep close to hand and refer to when needed, giving you the recommended instructions for indoor fires.

Burnright gives handy tips on how to burn indoor fires efficiently. Air pollution is a widespread problem and poisonous air is caused by a number of factors such as agriculture, construction and engines. Indoor fires (stoves, open fires) are often overlooked but they can cause tiny particles of pollution inside a home or workplace.