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