Follies of Mad Jack Fuller
in Brightling, East Sussex
The members of the Fuller
family were local landowners at Brightling, East Sussex from the
late 16th Century onwards. The family fortune had been
built upon iron and the manufacture of iron goods, especially
cannons and similar equipment for the British Royal Navy. There
was also a substantial income from sugar plantations in
By the time that John Fuller inherited the family home (then
called Rose Hill, now Brightling Park) and fortunes in 1777 at
the age of 20, the family was heavily involved in politics, both
nationally and locally. John served several terms as Member of
Parliament during his life, as well as fulfilling the role of
squire for the area around Brightling.
He seems to have fostered an image of eccentricity throughout his
many years (he died at the age of 77). A large man, living life
to the full, he never married but enjoyed supporting good causes
and assumed the role of local philanthropist - he paid for the
first lifeboat at Eastbourne, and towards the building of the
Belle Tout Lighthouse on the cliffs at nearby Beachy Head.
He is said to have revelled in the name 'Mad Jack Fuller'
- presumably to enhance the eccentric image. During his life he
arranged and paid for a number of follies and other structures in
and around Brightling, perhaps the strangest being his own tomb
in which he is buried in Brightling churchyard.
During his lifetime Jack arranged for the building of his own
tomb (in the shape of a Pyramid) in the churchyard at Brightling.
It was said that he was buried inside the tomb sitting at a
table, complete with bottle of wine at hand and wearing a top
hat. Broken glass was strewn across the floor to stop the
Sadly both stories were proven to be untrue when it was necessary
to enter the tomb to carry out restoration work many years later.
Jack died in 1834.
This folly - seen here as a silhouette on the tree line - is not
readily accessible to the visitor. It lies in the grounds of
Presumably it was intended to add a 'classic' perspective
to the landscape as seen from the family home.
This is on Brightling Down, on the edge of the village and with
views all around. 65 feet high, it is thought to have been
built to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
It is sometimes known as the Brightling Needle.
The sugar loaf
This lies a couple of miles from the village, on a hill ridge.
There are several plausible reasons given for its existence - one
being that it was as a result of a wager.
Supposedly Mad Jack bet a friend, during a visit to London, that
he could see the spire of the church in a nearby village
(Dallington) from his home at Brightling. On returning home he
discovered that the spire was not visible since it was blocked by
a hill, and quickly had the Sugar Loaf - whose shape closely
resembles that of the spire - built on a ridge of hills between
his home and the village.
The Sugar Loaf gets its name from the way in which sugar was
supplied at the time - in cones called loaves.
Jack bought Bodiam Castle, in Kent, to save it from
It is said that he had the tower at Brightling (which is some 35
feet high) built as a reminder of the restoration work being
undertaken at Bodiam.
The tower is hollow and serves no useful purpose.
The building of the observatory on the edge of the village (and
completed around 1818) was probably inspired by a German friend
of Mad Jack who was an astronomer.
It was used for a while (astronomy then being a fashionable
science) but has long been turned into a private residence and is
not open to the visitor.