Friday, March 22, 2013

Postcard 3: John Fullers Tomb, Brightling Churchyard

Pub. by T. Croft, Hollingrove, Brightling - undated

Notice that the entrance is bricked up. Wondering when that was done and when the bricks were removed.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Did the Pyramid of Cestius inspire Fuller to build his mausoleum?

The Pyramid of Caius Cestius with the Aurelian Walls, Rome
Victor-Jean Nicolle (1754-1826)

The Pyramid of Caius Cestius with the Aurelian Walls, Rome

A page about St Thomas a Beckett Church, Brightling  on the Britain Express website states that Jack Fuller's pyramid mausoleum was modelled after the Tomb of Cestius in Rome. The illustration above, by Parisian artist Victor-Jean Nicolle was done during one of his trips to Rome of either 1787–89 or 1806–11. The Pyramid of Cestius dates to about 12 BC and is approximately 120 feet (36 m) high and made of brick and cement, faced with white marble. 
"The pyramid was an essential sight for many who undertook the Grand Tour in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was much admired by architects, becoming the primary model for pyramids built in the West during this period." Source: Wikipedia

File:Comparison of pyramids.svg

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Site Unseen The Pyramid, Brightling

This article, by Andrew John Davies, appeared in The Independent on Tuesday 12 December 1995. Davies likens actor Sir Robert Stephens, who died on 12 November 1995, to "those full-bodied and memorable individuals who live life to its utmost and devil take the consequences" .  Mad Jack Mytton, Lord Rokeby,  John Elwes and Mad Jack Fuller are offered as examples of larger than life characters. 

Of Fuller, Davies writes, "His house has an observatory which allowed the servants to peer through a telescope and spot the master returning home from London.". It seems he is confusing The Tower with the Observatory, neither of which are actually in Fuller's house Rose Hill.  He also states the the Obelisk or Brightling Needle was erected to "commemorate the defeat of Napoleon in 1815." Although one may conjecture that this is the case, there is scant evidence to support this claim. 

I wonder what Davies is referring to when he closes with, "Guide books are normally available inside the church". Does he mean the Brightling Church Guide by Diana Boyd?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Postcard 2: The Tower, Brightling

Published by T.P. Croft, Station Road, Robertsbridge
Postmarked 10:35 am, 5 Nov 1927, Vinehall St, Robertsbridge S.O. Sussex

To Mr & Mrs Rachett, Elm Villa, Station Road, Sandown, I of W (Isle of Wight)

Friday Whatlington
Thanks so much for all news delighted to hear Aunt P is getting on so nicey & I am feeling all the better for the change. Fireworks are being practiced & we are jumping out of our skins. Kit the dog jumped right out of the fireplace. I have been to Brightling for one night, this strange Tower is there. We had a car Wednesday & went all round to see the relatives. 35 miles it was very foggy indeed. I missed my bus yesterday & had to walk 5 miles, glad to get back here. Love to Mrs Vince and yourselves from Ida Aunt P & myself. Yours M. K.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Eccentric Folly Builders: William Thomas Beckford

Photo by Annette Lloyd Thomas,2003 

William Beckford has been described as a profligate art collector and writer. His best known work is Vathek a  Gothic novel first published in 1786 in French. He inherited his father's Jamaican sugar plantations, £ 1 million and an income of £100, 000 per year, making him the richest commoner in England. Once on a trip to Portugal he brought a flock of sheep with him so that he could view them from his window and it would remind him of home. He left England, when a scandal broke regarding his relationship with  fifteen year old William Courtney, son of the eighth Earl of Devon, and wandered around the Continent for 13 years. He took his doctor, baker, cook, valet and a small orchestra with him. Beckford also traveled with his own bed and had his hotel rooms wall papered to his own taste. 

Beckford's first attempt at building was disastrous. Fonthill Abbey a massive, Gothic revival structure, complete with 300  foot tower,  was designed by James Wyatt. Beckford was impatient to get the project finished and bribed his workers with alcohol which had a devastating effect. The tower collapsed and was rebuilt three times. After Beckford sold the property in 1822 to John Farquhar the tower collapse again, ruining the abbey in the process. 

In later life, Beckford moved to Bath and built Lansdown Tower (aka Beckford's Tower), just outside of Bath, Somerset. Architect Henry Edmund Goodridge designed the 154 ft stone ashlar tower which was constructed between 1825 and 1827. It has been a Grade I listed building since 11 August 1972. The tower is now owned by the Bath Preservation Trust and can be rented as a holiday home through the Landmark Trust.  For a detailed description see

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Eccentric Folly Builders: Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt-Wilson, 14th Lord Berners (1883-1950)

Photo by Rose Robinson, 22 April 2008

Lord Berners, as he was usually known, was a man of many talents and eccentricities. He composed ballets, movie scores, songs and an opera. He wrote several autobiographical works and six novels. His eccentricity became evident at a young age. After hearing that dogs instinctively learn to swim if thrown into water, he threw his mother's spaniel out of the window thinking it might learn to fly. He used to dye his doves pastel colours. Berners had a keen wit and enjoyed playing practical jokes on guests to his home, Faringdon Hall, Oxfordshire, who included: Salvador Dali, Gertrude Stein, H G Wells and Aldous Huxley.

In 1935, Lord Berners built the 140 foot (43m) Faringdon Folly on top of Faringdon Hill. It was designed by Gerald Wellesley, Marquess of Duoro. This square tower is made of Fletton brick and has an octagonal crown. It is a Grade II listed building, since 1986, and is known alternatively as Lord Berner's Folly.

Robert Vernon Heber-Percy, Berner's "companion" inherited the folly and gave it to the people of Faringdon in the 1980s. It is now open to the public on the first and third Sundays from April to October from 11 am to 5 pm, for a small entry fee. The folly surrounded by woods and a sculpture trail that you can visit for free.

 For more detailed information see: and

Friday, March 08, 2013

John "Mad Jack" Fuller

John “Mad Jack” Fuller
Also known as: Honest John and the Hippopotamus


  • 20 February 1757 at North Stoneham, Hampshire. 
  • Inherited a fortune, including the Rose Hill estate, Brightling Sussex, from his paternal uncle Rose Fuller, in 1777, at the age of 20. The Fuller family’s wealth was derived from iron founding, land holdings and sugar plantations in Jamaica. 

  • Never married; no known children. 

  • Squire of Brightling, Sussex. 
  • He was Member of Parliament for Southampton from 1780 to 1784 and for Sussex from 1801 to 1812. 

  • Made a bet that he could see the spire of St Giles Church, Dallington from Rose Hill house. Upon realizing that this was not true he had workmen erect the Sugar Loaf folly over night in order to win the bet. 
  • Fuller had a 25 foot (7.62 m) high pyramid mausoleum built in 1811, twenty-three years before his death. It stands, incongruously, in the churchyard of St. Thomas à Becket, Brightling. 
  • He was removed from the house of parliament for disorderly conduct in 1810. The incident arose from his participation in an inquiry into the Walcheren Campaign. Fuller insulted the speaker of the house, calling him “an insignificant little fellow in a wig”, was taken into custody by the Serjeant-at-Arms and was publicly disgraced. 

  • At his Devonshire Place home in London on 11 April 1834, aged 78.

Rev John “Mad Jack” Alington

A sketch of Rev John Alington in his leopard skin robe by Samuel Lucas.

Rev John “Mad Jack” Alington
Also known as: The Mad Vicar of Old Letchworth

  •   Born 4 May, 1795 at Baldock, Hertfordshire
  •   Inherited a fortune from his maternal grandfather - 43 farms, a million pounds cash and a country seat, Letchworth Hall in Hertfordshire. 
  • First married to Elba Frances in 1822. She died in 1838 leaving him to look after 8 sons and 3 daughters. 
  • Married Elizabeth Tufnell on 27 Mar 1841. 
  • He was granted a BA from Balliol College, Oxford, in 1817 and an MA in 1822. He was ordained as a priest on 17 June 1821.
  • Samuel Hartopp Knapp, the vicar of St Mary’s Church, Letchworth, invited him to take a few services. Alington took all but the funerals. His erratic behavior and bizarre preaching led to his suspension from office. 
  • Alington started holding church services at Letchworth Hall which were attended by the people of the village, who lived on his land and worked for him, as well as transients, gypsies and prostitutes. Free beer and brandy were further inducements to attend. 
  •  Instead of customary vestments he wore a leopard skin robe, played music boxes and an old piano he called “tidlee bump” 
  • “He would begin reading the sermon, usually a story about free love, then disappear behind a screen, then reappear in another part of the hall through a trapdoor, or would occasionally career up and down the aisle, staggeringly drunk, in a four-wheeled cart propelled by a couple of servants. To signal the end of his service he generally removed his wig and tossed it into the air.” Curing Hiccups with Small Fires: A Delightful Miscellany of Great British Eccentrics by Karl Shaw, page 76. 
  • Liked to be carried around his garden in a coffin. 
  • Transformed his pond into a model of the world’s oceans and would give geographical lectures while paddling around it in a boat. 
  • Died on 11 December 1864 at Letchworth Hall, aged 69. 
  • He had taken ill and refused the doctor’s medicine opting instead for a tumbler of neat brandy. He died shortly after drinking it.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

John “Mad Jack” Mytton

John “Mad Jack” Mytton
Also known as: "Mango, the King of the Pickles"
  •  Born 30 Sept 1796 at Halston, Shropshire
  •  Inherited the family fortune at the age of 21 –  £60,000 and an income of  £10,000 annually from 132,000 acres of agricultural land in North Wales and Shropshire.
  • Inherited family seat Halston Hall, Whittington, Shropshire.

  • First wife was Harriet Emma Jones. They had a daughter Harriet Emma Charlotte christened on 23 April 1819.
  •  His marriage to second wife Caroline Gifford on 29 October 1821 ended in separation in 1830. She had a daughter and four sons:  Barbara Augusta (b. 9 August 1822), John Fox Fitz-Giffard (b. 20 November 1823), Charles Orville January (b. 1825), Euphrates Henry April (b. 1826) and William Harper (b. April 1827). Euphrates and Charles died young but his two other sons and both daughters survived him. Barbara Augusta in 1847 married Colonel Poulett George Henry Somerset, son of Lord Charles Henry Somerset, a younger brother of the 6th Duke of Beaufort.


  • He was thrown out of Harrow and Westminster schools for fighting with his teachers and didn't last long at Cambridge either. 
  •  Was elected Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury at a by-election in 1819. Legend has it that he spent only thirty minutes in parliament and left because he was bored. 

  • "By his mid-twenties he was drinking six bottles of vintage port a day, the first while he was shaving before breakfast". Curing Hiccups with Small Fires: A Delightful Miscellany of Great British Eccentrics by Karl Shaw, page 36. 
  • " He fought dogs and bears with his bare hands went duck-hunting in winter wearing only his nightshirt and chased rats across frozen ponds on ice skates". Ibid, page 37.
  • "Mytton was master of the local hunt and kept two thousand hounds, which he fed on champagne and steak. He also owned sixty cats, which he dressed in fine silk livery." Ibid, page 37.
  • He had a bear called Nell which he once rode into his drawing-room during a party. The bear became agitated when piqued by Jack's spurs and took a bite out of his calf. 
  • His favourite horse, Baronet, had the freedom of Halsted Hall and used to lie in front of the fire with Jack.
  • In order to cure hiccups, he set his nightshirt on fire. Although this did the trick, Mytton was very badly burned in the process. 
  •         After squandering his fortune, he died penniless in King’s Bench Prison on  29 March 1834, aged 37, of delirium tremens. 

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Other "Mad Jacks"

In his book, Curing Hiccups with Small Fires: A Delightful Miscellany of Great British Eccentrics, Karl Shaw writes about two other legendary characters who have been nicknamed "Mad Jack". In chapter two "Sporting Eccentrics" we read about John "Mad Jack" Mytton (1796-1834) and in chapter three, "Religious Eccentrics" we learn about the Rev "Mad Jack" Alington (1795-1863). 

What does John "Mad Jack" Fuller (1757-1834) have in common with these two gentlemen?
  1. They all lived in England at the same time. Fuller and Mytton died within 11 days of each other. 
  2. All three inherited vast fortunes and country seats as young men.
  3. Fuller and Mytton were both Members of Parliament.
  4. Unconventional thinking and eccentric behavior has made each of them a local legend. 
John Fuller is not mentioned in Shaw's book. He may have been a larger than life, boisterous character who did things his own way, but he was not truly "Mad" in the real sense of the word. As for Mytton and Alington, I'll let you be the judge. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Postcard 1: The Observatory, Brightling

Publisher unknown.

To - Miss A. Buss, Khartoum, Magdalen Rd, Bexhill On Sea (undated).

Dear Ciss
Just a few lines to tell you that Granny Buss is ill and Aunt Hartie is home for the Winter. Grandfather wired for her to come yesterday. Please tell Aunt Lou.
From Nell

Any help identifying the sender and recipient would be gratefully received. I believe the house, Khartoum, was at 23 Magdalen Road.


Monday, March 04, 2013

Rev Sir Robert Fuller Acland Hood

This school photo, taken at Eton,  of the Rev Sir Robert Fuller Acland Hood is unfortunately undated. The 1881 British Census list him as follows: occupation - scholar, boarded at Eton College, Common Lane, Eton, Buckingham. He would have been 15 years old at that time.

His entry in the Alumni Oxonienses: the Members of the University of Oxford, 1715-1886 is:

Hood, Robert Fuller Acland, 45, Sir Alexander Periam Bateman Fuller- A.H., of West Quontoxhead Somerset, baronet. NEW COLL., MATRIC. 16 Oct., 1885, aged 19.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Lady Helena Acland Hood

The Tatler No. 66 October 1, 1902, page 17

Society in Town and Country
Week by Week.

Church and Peerage.
--Lady Helena Acland Hood is the eldest of the good looking sisters of the present Duke of Hamilton. She began life as "Miss," for though descended from the 4th duke her father's title was merely admiral. When her brother succeeded to the dukedom she and her sisters in accordance with the custom were granted by Queen Victoria the courtesy title and precedence of duke's daughters. Three years later Lady Helena married a clergyman, Mr. Robert Fuller Acland Hood, a relation of the baronet and M.P. of that name (Sir Alexander Alcand Hood) and of the late Lord Hood of Avalon. Lady Helena is fond of music and flowers and adores the country while not wholly indifferent to the attractions of town. Like most of her family she fully believes in the influence that sport exercises on the physique of the race.

 Rev. Sir Robert Fuller Acland Hood was born on 7 Sep 1866 in West Quantoxhead, Somersetshire. He died on 23 Apr 1912 in Godalming, Surrey. He married Lady Helena Augusta Charlotte Constance Sidney Douglas - Hamilton on 1 Jun 1899 in Kimberley, South Africa.

Lady Helena Augusta Charlotte Constance Sidney Douglas - Hamilton was born on 26 Nov 1860 in Shanklin, Isle of Wight. She died on 4 Aug 1950 in Parkstone, Dorset. They one child, a daughter Elspeth Margaret Douglas Acland Hood who was born on 23 Apr 1900 and died on 20 Feb 1901.

Lady Helena's parents were Admiral Charles Henry Hamilton who was born on 7 Oct 1808 in Westminster. He died on 30 Nov 1873. He married Elizabeth Ann Hill, born 1831, on 31 Jan 1860.

The Rev Sir Robert Fuller Acland Hood was the great-grandson of John "Mad Jack" Fuller's sister Elizabeth Fuller. For more details see the Fuller family tree here.

Saturday, March 02, 2013

A Village's Queer Buildings by Frederick John

The Sussex County Magazine October 1928, No. 10 Vol. II, pages 442 - 443

John asserts that without John Fuller and the Needle, Brightling "would have achieved little fame". It would be an unremarkable Sussex village. He writes, " Every summer huge chars-a-bancs labour up from the coast resorts to the altitude of 646 feet, bringing their loads of curious trippers to gaze a the famous Needle, and to speculate vaguely on its origin and purpose." One can visualize these open topped vehicles, very popular in the 1920s, filled with holiday makers from Eastbourne or Hastings visiting Brightling on day outings.  

Interestingly, John refers to Fuller's buildings as "masonic enigmas". Pyramids and obelisks have long been considered symbols of freemasonry. This is not the first allusion that John Fuller was a mason that I've encountered. I have yet to find concrete evidence to support this notion, however. 

This article is illustrated with charming ink drawings of the observatory, Brightling Needle and "Mad Jack's" Mausoleum (above).  The name of the illustrator is difficult to read but the surname appears to be Boulter-Cooke. A writer and illustrator named Mabel Adeline Boulter-Cooke made contributions to The Sussex County Magazine around the same time. Could this be her work or that of a relative?

Friday, March 01, 2013

Turner's Sussex Pictures by Frederick Jones

The Sussex County Magazine January 1928, No. I Vol. II, pages 18 - 21

Jones writes about the "Views of Sussex (1820)" that Fuller commissioned Turner to create. The drawings were engraved by the Cooke brothers, George and William Bernard . The folio was comprised of "Pevensey Bay from Crowhurst Park (1816)" , "The Vale of Ashburnham (1819)", "Brightling Observatory from Rose Hill Park (1819)", "The Vale of Heathfield (1818)", and "Battle Abbey the Place Where Harold Fell (1819)". My understanding is that the engravings were done from drawings made by Turner betwen 1810 and 1816 and not from paintings. 

Crowhurst Park, the former seat of the Pelham and Papillion family, is now a "Holiday Village". Their website says,"The magnificent view which stretches south across the lush green Sussex countryside to the coast, was painted in 1816 by J.M.W. Turner, and although the whereabouts of the original painting is now unknown, a sketch made by Turner of the same scene is stored as part of a collection of sketches by Turner, in the Tate Britain Gallery." Crowhurst Park 

Turner's sketchbooks were bequeathed to Tate London. His sketch made of Brightling Observatory can be viewed here.

A second folio, to be called "Views at Hastings and its Vicinity", was in the works but never came to fruition. Below are prints from two of the plates intended for the second folio, top "Bodiham Castle, sic (1817)" and bottom "Hurstmonceux Castle (1820)".

After Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Bodiham Castle, Sussex’ 1817

After Joseph Mallord William Turner, ‘Hurstmonceux Castle’ 1820

For more detailed information see catalogue entry on the Tate's website here.