F is for Mad Jack Fuller

This is my contribution to Round Fourteen of ABC Wednesday. For the fifth time I am focusing on people – some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten, but all with a tale to tell.

Jack FullerThe English countryside is dotted with follies, buildings that we would probably call vanity projects these days, and one of the most prolific sponsors of such eccentricities was Mad Jack Fuller.

The Fuller family were landowners in Brightling, East Sussex, from the late 16th century and made their fortune from manufactured iron goods, especially cannons which they supplied to the Royal Navy.

It has to be noted that the Fullers also benefited financially from sugar plantations in Jamaica which were, of course, built upon the flagitious slave trade.

John Fuller was born in 1757 and inherited the family fortune from his uncle in 1777 when he was just twenty. Although he came to be known as Mad Jack, he much preferred to be called Honest John from his involvement in local and national politics and for his support of good causes.

Jack FullerFuller entered Parliament in 1780 and served as MP for Southampton, and later Sussex, until 1812. He was a staunch supporter of slavery and in one debate he claimed that West Indian slaves lived in better conditions than many people in England which may well have been true.

But if his views were reprehensible by modern standards, Fuller was also a philanthropist and he paid for the first lifeboat at Eastbourne, and towards the building of the Belle Tout Lighthouse on the cliffs at nearby Beachy Head.

Fuller also supported the sciences and acted as mentor to the young Michael Faraday. He funded the Royal Institution to some tune and founded the Fullerian Professorship of Chemistry, with Faraday as the first professor, and later the Fullerian Professorship of Physiology.

As mentioned earlier, Fuller is perhaps most famous for his follies. These included a classic temple in the grounds of Brightling Park, an obelisk on the edge of the village now known as the Brightling Needle, and a castle tower which is hollow and serves no useful purpose.

The Sugar LoafBut the funniest of his follies has to the Sugar Loaf which came about as the result of a drunken wager.

Fuller was having dinner with a friend in London and during the conversation he swore that he could see the church spire in the nearby village of Dallington from his home in Brightling. It was only when he got home that he realised this wasn’t true.

What he could see was Sugar Loaf Hill which took its name from the cone shape of sugar packaging of the time. It was this that he mistook for the top of the church spire.

Fuller hurriedly had workmen construct the cone shaped building to replicate the spire just so he could win his bet.

Mad Jack Fuller's Final FollyFuller died in 1834 and his final folly was the pyramid tomb he had built for himself in Brightling churchyard.

It was said that Fuller was entombed inside sitting at a table, complete with bottle of wine at hand and wearing a top hat, and that broken glass was strewn across the floor to stop the Devil’s footsteps.

Sadly both stories were proven to be untrue when it was necessary to enter the tomb to carry out restoration work many years later.


Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • Roger Green 19th February 2014

    You know, some of your louts I rather liked, but this one seems a real schmuck.

  • Mad Bert Pudding 19th February 2014

    So what was Mad Jack really doing inside his pyramid tomb? I have heard that his skeleton was on a DFS sofa and in his bony hands he was holding an i-pad and a can of Boddingtons – complete with widget. How will you be left in your tomb I wonder Mr Parrots? I hope you’ve left instructions in your will. Follies are usually very interesting but invariably they remind us of the vulgarity and wastefulness of the idle rich and the so-called nobility…while they paid their employees slave wages, they planned pointless beacons and crenellated turrets.

  • Joy 19th February 2014

    Brightling looks to be the ideal destination for lovers of follies, and for those of us that like a mooch around a graveyard possibly worth the trip just to see a pyramid mausoleum.
    Joy – ABC Team

  • lesliebc 20th February 2014

    Too bad his skeleton wasn’t sitting there…that would have been a shock to those entering his tomb.

    abcw team


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