In 2010, Sally Phillips was working as an ecologist specialising in bat surveys and going to lots of properties that had visiting bats. More often than not, they’d come into buildings through open chimneys. The more chimneys Sally looked up, the more she became intrigued by them. After doing some research she found that chimneys were (and still are!) designed to constantly draw air out of a property due to a phenomenon called the stack effect. Sally’s thought? ‘What an enormous source of heat loss and how unsustainable!’ and that was when the cogs started turning. Sally started to think about what she could create that would block airflow but still allow the chimney to breathe, be easy to take in and out of the chimney, be versatile enough to block a wide range of chimney sizes and not be too expensive.
The key to all of that? FELTED WOOL!
Living in Cumbria she was able to scrounge wool off lots of farmers and in the process, learned about its various properties – naturally insulating, breathable, sustainable, high quality, under-utilised, compressive and malleable. Sally tried various types of wool but Herdwick wool was the only one that could hold its shape when felted. Just by coincidence, Cumbria was the home of the Herdwick sheep!
To help with the development of the product, Sally contacted Lancaster University and thus, the Chimney Sheep® was born. By September 2012, Sally had a product that she was able to sell and over the years has been able to add various sizes to the range to cover most chimney sizes.
Since then, we have gone from strength to strength, selling our ‘Sheep’ all over the UK, Europe, the USA and Australia, employing 11 people across two rather large units on an industrial estate in Maryport. We have also gone on to win lots of awards with our Chimney Sheep® including a Queen's Award for Enterprise, an Ends Green Economy Award, a Buildings & Energy Efficiency Awards and were named one of Kevin McCloud’s ‘Green Heroes’.
Over the years, alongside our wonderful Chimney Sheep®, we have worked to curate our own range of household and garden items that are both practical and effective. Where possible our products are made from recycled, sustainable or natural materials. Our shop has everything from draught excluders to insulation, laundry products to natural gardening items and we always have our thinking caps on as to what we can add next.
We are passionate about the environment but believe that you don’t have to sacrifice practicality for ‘eco-friendly’. That was the exact mindset we had when we created the Chimney Sheep® draught excluder and is still our belief today. We develop and curate product ranges that have functionality at their core but with the added bonus of being kind to the environment. We don’t like pulling the wool over your eyes (excuse the pun) so we will always be transparent as to how each of our products work and why they are beneficial to the environment. To do this, all our products have been researched, tried and tested by members of our team before we add them to the shop to ensure that they are 100% fit for purpose and are items that we genuinely love. We add them to our range because we believe you’ll love them just as much as we do!
20% of the profits from each purchase made with us go towards our Community Interest Company called Buy Land Plant Trees, where we buy agriculturally useless land and plant trees. We do this to help you, our customers, reduce your CO2 output whilst contributing to the reduction of flooding and the creation of habitats for wildlife. Although what we are doing is on a small scale, we are big believers in the phrase ‘think globally, act locally’ and want to make a genuine difference, no matter how small.
In 2018, we started Operation Wool. Here at Chimney Sheep, we are big supporters of wool and all its wonderful qualities, particularly Herdwick wool, using it to make our Chimney Sheep® as well as our insulation, some of our gardening products and our Snug Feet insoles too. When we started out, we used to buy Herdwick wool from suppliers but in recent years, we have bought our wool direct from local farmers in Cumbria, naming the mammoth collection, ‘Operation Wool’. This helps to support the local farming industry and means that they can sell it for a better price than they would normally.