A Sweep’s Tale

July 27, 2013 | 0 Comments | Filed under: 2013, August 2013

As an archivist, you sometimes stumble upon a forgotten story from the past you want to share. I recently found some remarkable coroner’s inquest papers relating to the shocking death of a 9-year old chimney sweep boy from Tideswell, George Hadfield. The records revealed a detailed picture of a journey taken in 1840 by three young chimney sweeps from the Tideswell home of their master sweep (William Booker) across the southerly parts of the High Peak in search of work. The journey had devastating consequences, leading to the death of 9-year old George, a daring escape and flight from justice, and banishment to the other side of the world for a despicable crime…

Together with my sister, High Peak journalist Holly Knebel, and Matlock film-maker Dave Mackie, we were moved to try and tell the tragic story of George’s life, following in the fateful footsteps of the Tideswell chimney sweeps. We ventured into the archives and out into the Peaks, aiming to weave a rich body of historical source material onto the dramatic landscape which shaped the story.

The village of Tideswell made us feel very welcome during our filming project, kindly allowing us to film at Tideswell Church (where George was buried) and the Old Bull’s Head across the road (where the inquest into his death was held). The result is a 30-minute pilot episode ‘A Sweep of the Peak’ (available to view online: http://www.peakinthepast.co.uk/) for a historical documentary series exploring the Peaks through the dark secrets of its past.


Tim Knebel


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