Monday 20 February 2012

A Pyramid in Sussex

This is but one of a fine set of follies built by the 18th-century eccentric 'Mad Jack' Fuller in and around the Sussex village of Brightling (this one was to serve as his mausoleum, so at least it had a purpose). Fuller, born on this day in 1757, preferred to be known as 'Honest John', but spent much of his time energetically living up to the 'Mad Jack' nickname. He inherited a fortune at the age of 20, and at 23 took his seat in the Commons, where he distinguished himself by being even more drunk than most of his fellow MPs, and by speaking up vigorously in defence of slavery, the foundation of much of his family's wealth. However, 'Mad Jack' was also an active patron of science and the arts, supporting the Royal Institution and commissioning paintings from Turner. And he did many good works, building the Belle Tout lighthouse at Beachy Head, giving Eastbourne its first lifeboat, and buying Bodiam Castle to save it from destruction. But it is for his follies that he will always be remembered - and a weird and wonderful collection they are... If you find yourself in the vicinity - Brightling is near Robertsbridge and not far from Battle - do take a look around. It's a surprisingly remote-feeling spot, high on the Sussex Weald, with wide views in parts and a contrasting hedged-in feeling in others, and a tang of salt in the air. And the tour of Mad Jack's follies makes for one of the strangest walks that southern England has to offer.

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