Search Again

Find A Local Chimney Sweep

Traditional House Coal Ban for England

Centuries of history came to a close on May 1st 2023 as the sale of traditional housecoal was banned for domestic use in England, although there is no change in other parts of the UK.

House Coal Ban In England

Centuries of history came to a close on May 1st 2023 as the sale of traditional housecoal was banned for domestic use in England, although there is no change in other parts of the UK.

The fuel – which powered Britain’s Industrial Revolution – is no longer available for homes due to new laws aimed at improving air quality levels. A exception has been made for coal mined by the ‘Freeminers’ of the Forest of Dean, where it can continue to be mined for sale locally. Heritage venues, steam railways and steam vehicles can continue.

The government is promoting the use of cleaner burning fuels such as smokeless coal and wood logs. The general ban on housecoal has been phased in over several years, beginning with the sale of sealed bags of coal back in 2021.

Lawson Wight, chairman of the Guild of Master Chimney Sweeps, said: “While relatively few people still use housecoal, its passing marks the end of a very long chapter in our country’s history and our entire world would look quite different without it.

“The good news is that there are plenty alternatives already on the market and used in greater volumes than housecoal. For instance, there are a number of smokeless coal brands available, not to mention renewable fuels like wood logs and wood briquettes.”

The mining of coal in the UK has been declining for generations. In the 1870s, around 467,000 men were employed in pits. By 1970, that figure had halved. The rise of domestic gas, and cheaper imports, sounded the death-knell for many jobs.

The last commercial coal mine in England, The Bradley Mine in County Durham, closed in 2020.

Hitler, Housecoal & Smoke Control Areas

Did you know that Adolf Hitler is partly responsible for Smoke Control Areas, which created the first ever UK restrictions on housecoal?

SCAs were brought in following the Great London Smog of 1952. The ‘pea souper’, which took five days to disappear, caused an estimated 12,000 deaths.

One of the biggest culprits of the smog was the use of lower-grade high sulphur coal. Millions of Brits were forced to burn this rather than premium coal, which was being shipped to America to help Britain pay off its debts to Uncle Sam after World War II.

The Great Smog ushered in the Clean Air Act 1956, which brought in Smoke Control Areas and specifically banned housecoal use in certain areas.

People in a Smoke Control Area with open fires should only burn approved smokeless fuels – wood is not allowed. People with a multi-fuel stove in a control area should ensure their stove is ‘Defra Exempt’ if they want to burn wood.  You can find your local Smoke Control Area here

Sweeps Are ‘Breathing A Sigh of Relief!’

To chimney sweeps, the passing of housecoal is likely to be cheered rather than mourned.

Lawson explained: “Housecoal always creates an awful lot of soot. Light and fluffy in texture, it is notoriously difficult to contain, especially on larger open fires.

“Thankfully, modern professional sweeps have various ways to contain soot and dust, but to this day, some customers will still sheet out the entire room before the sweep arrives.”

“The smell is also very distinctive and, depending on your point of view, you love it or hate it!”

“I don’t think many sweeps will be sad to see the back of housecoal from a purely sweeping point of view.”

“But as a trade which grew almost in tandem with housecoal, I’m sure we can all appreciate the massive contribution it has made to both our trade and the history of our country.”

“There are no changes to the laws on using house coal, if you have some and don’t live in a Smoke Control Area you may continue. You just won’t be able to buy it anymore.”

Find A Sweep

Your local professional chimney sweep will have lots of great advice on efficient use of your fire and fuel. They can help save you money, keep you safer and reduce emissions : Find a Chimney Sweep near me – UK directory of Chimney Sweeps

Share this page

Speak to a Sweep

10 Things To Ask Your Sweep On Their Next Visit

10 Things To Ask Your Sweep On Their Next Visit

A wood burning stove gives you the choice of opting for a carbon neutral, renewable, and sustainable domestic heat source. Here are 10 things to ask your chimney sweep on their next visit to help you find the best way to achieve efficiency and low environmental impact with your woodburner or fire.

Find Out More

More Articles in Articles and News

Useful tips and advice to help you get the most our of your wood burner or open fire.

Woodburner ban Scotland

New build woodburner ban in Scotland!

Chimney sweeps and their customers are joining other groups to support the Save our Stoves campaign in Scotland. Sweeps are…

May 28, 2024

Chimney Sweep Day

May 1st – Chimney Sweeps Day

The days surrounding May 1st have long been associated with festivals and celebrations.

May 1, 2024

Chimney Sweep Limerick Tea Towel

Chimney Sweep Limerick Tea Towel

Introducing our limited edition chimney sweep’s ’Limerick Tea Towel’.

April 25, 2024

St. Florian Statue

From Sainthood to Soot

The Surprising Connection between Saints and Chimney Sweeps From sacred saints depicted holding holy relics to soot-covered sweeps and their…

April 11, 2024