The main cause of chimney fires is a build up of creosote in the chimney. This in turn can set fire to thatched roofs. Our family home was built in 1740, similar to the one below but another story higher. Cellar, ground floor, first floor, second floor, attic and loft. My bedroom was on the top floor, but the fires were only on the ground floor and the first floor main bedroom, so it was pretty cold in my room in winter!
Fire places in the 18th century tended to be pretty big, as did the kitchens in big houses. Our kitchen was large, and you could walk into the fireplace if you stooped just a little!
This 18th century style fireplace below is a much smaller version used in smaller dwellings which I built in our Elm Cottage.
It has a buggy axle as a cross bar and chains and hooks for hanging kettles.
The main reason for the build up of creosote in the fireplace and chimney is the use of wet or damp firewood.
Firewood needs to be split and stacked, or at least stacked outside through a summer or two to season and dry out. Depending on how the summer weather is and how hot it gets.The sap never leaves the wood, but the moisture will. Once the wood is dry it can be moved into a wood shed or shelter and restacked in the same way.
This is some of our firewood stacked in the wood shed. We use wood all year round, just as it was in the 18th century, so there is a constant need to be felling trees, cutting and stacking, carting, splitting and restacking.
I started doing this when I was about 10 years of age. After cutting the tree down I had to cut it to a length I could drag with a rope. I dragged it home where I then had to split the log so it could be lifted into our large sawing horse.
I had to wait for my Father to come home to help me lift the split log into the sawing horse, where we would then both cut the fire logs with a crosscut saw like this one below.
I would take the handle end and my Father would take the other end. We would both push and pull. It is not easy work, but it is very satisfying. I do not have our old crosscut saw, it was too large for me to carry with me when I left England, but I did manage to find one exactly the same here.