Getting rid of victorian soot

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In removing a back boiler from the parlour in our large Victorian house, we decided to open up the fireplace to its original size and discovered a long hidden range sized fireplace, almost the size of an inglenook. It is completely covered in gummed up tar and soot which we plan m, as best we can, to get back to a brighter brick. The wife is currently going at it with plain hot water and plastic kitchen scourers.

Any ideas for a more quick, effective way of getting shot. Sand blasting is not an option, unfortunately.
 

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Get it swept first , no point cleaning it only to have it ruined by a soot fall.
 
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A bit random, and I've not tried it, but I believe that fresh (it really has to be fresh, apparently) cow dung works well (according to Jane Schofield, if I remember rightly)
 
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