18 March 2018

Mad Jack’s Follies

Fancy a walk? Okay, let’s go! We’re in Brightling, a tiny hamlet sitting atop the Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in East Sussex, and we’ve come to discover some of the many follies of Mad Jack Fuller. For a brief intro to Jack, I’ll quote from the walk guidebook we used:

Born in 1757, John Fuller was variously known as ‘Mad Jack’, ‘Honest Jack’ and ‘Hippopotamus’, an irreverent allusion to his 22-stone bulk and waddling gait. The owner of a family fortune derived from shrewd investments made possibly by profitable ventures in the local iron industry in the 16th century, Fuller inherited the ancestral home – Rose Hill at Brightling – at the age of twenty and soon made a mark for himself as an MP. Pugnacious and outspoken at the despatch box, he ruffled numerous Parliamentary feathers, often referring to the Speaker as ‘that insignificant man in a wig’. By 1810, his days as a politician were over and he retired to a life of ease in Sussex, devoting his time and considerable fortune to twin interests in the arts and science, his appetite for the whimsical and absurd leading to the creation of a rash of follies.


The first of Jack’s follies that we’re visiting is his last resting place in the churchyard of the lovely Church of St Thomas Becket.


We enter the churchyard from the west and, as we approach the church, we get our first glimpse of the folly. Yes, that’s a pyramid-shaped tomb, in which Jack was apparently placed sitting upright on a chair, wearing a top hat and clutching a bottle of his favourite claret.


We’ll have a look in the barred entrance but I don’t think we’ll see Mad Jack today.


Here’s another glimpse of the church, from the eastern end, as we walk past and down Brightling’s main road towards the next folly.


At the crossroads, we head over to the kissing gate across the road ...


And from there it’s a stomp along the field boundaries, following a well-worn track. The weather’s perfect for enjoying the far-reaching views over the Sussex countryside.


This is where we’re heading, to the Tower, a 35-foot stone construction.


We go right up to the Tower, have a look inside and around about – nothing much to see. Jack supposedly built this folly so he could see Bodiam Castle, which he had purchased in 1828 to save it from demolition. We can’t actually see Bodiam but maybe the view’s better from the top and, of course, the trees would’ve been shorter in Jack’s day.


Onwards across the field, across the road and then steeply downhill on a track past some farm buildings. There are pheasant breeding pens in the fields so the birds are a common sight hereabouts.


There are two possible routes here, through this woodland to enjoy the trees or along the edge of it. We’ll stick to the side track.


And there’s our third and final folly for today, on a hillside in a distant field.


Unfortunately we can’t get any closer as it’s on private property but my camera lens allows us to see a bit more. It’s a small classically styled temple, probably built in 1810 and possibly the location for some of Mad Jack’s discreet rendezvous with his female friends. What a character he was!

From the temple, we retrace our steps, back up that steep hill and along past the church to the car – a good strenuous stomp to finish off a lovely walk.


If you want to find out more about Mad Jack and his other follies, check out this link
Fancy a walk? Okay, let’s go! We’re in Brightling, a tiny hamlet sitting atop the Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in East Sussex, and we’ve come to discover some of the many follies of Mad Jack Fuller. For a brief intro to Jack, I’ll quote from the walk guidebook we used:

Born in 1757, John Fuller was variously known as ‘Mad Jack’, ‘Honest Jack’ and ‘Hippopotamus’, an irreverent allusion to his 22-stone bulk and waddling gait. The owner of a family fortune derived from shrewd investments made possibly by profitable ventures in the local iron industry in the 16th century, Fuller inherited the ancestral home – Rose Hill at Brightling – at the age of twenty and soon made a mark for himself as an MP. Pugnacious and outspoken at the despatch box, he ruffled numerous Parliamentary feathers, often referring to the Speaker as ‘that insignificant man in a wig’. By 1810, his days as a politician were over and he retired to a life of ease in Sussex, devoting his time and considerable fortune to twin interests in the arts and science, his appetite for the whimsical and absurd leading to the creation of a rash of follies.

The first of Jack’s follies that we’re visiting is his last resting place in the churchyard of the lovely Church of St Thomas Becket.

We enter the churchyard from the west and, as we approach the church, we get our first glimpse of the folly. Yes, that’s a pyramid-shaped tomb, in which Jack was apparently placed sitting upright on a chair, wearing a top hat and clutching a bottle of his favourite claret.

We’ll have a look in the barred entrance but I don’t think we’ll see Mad Jack today.

Here’s another glimpse of the church, from the eastern end, as we walk past and down Brightling’s main road towards the next folly.

At the crossroads, we head over to the kissing gate across the road ...

And from there it’s a stomp along the field boundaries, following a well-worn track. The weather’s perfect for enjoying the far-reaching views over the Sussex countryside.

This is where we’re heading, to the Tower, a 35-foot stone construction.

We go right up to the Tower, have a look inside and around about – nothing much to see. Jack supposedly built this folly so he could see Bodiam Castle, which he had purchased in 1828 to save it from demolition. We can’t actually see Bodiam but maybe the view’s better from the top and, of course, the trees would’ve been shorter in Jack’s day.

Onwards across the field, across the road and then steeply downhill on a track past some farm buildings. There are pheasant breeding pens in the fields so the birds are common sight hereabouts.

There are two possible routes here, through this woodland to enjoy the trees or along the edge of it. We’ll stick to the side track.

And there’s our third and final folly for today, on a hillside in a distant field.

Unfortunately we can’t get any closer as it’s on private property but my camera lens allows us to see a bit more. It’s a small classically styled temple, probably built in 1810 and possibly the location for some of Mad Jack’s discreet rendezvous with his female friends. What a character he was!

From the temple, we retrace our steps, back up that steep hill and along past the church to the car – a good strenuous stomp to finish off a lovely walk.

If you want to find out more about Mad Jack and his other follies, check out this link. http://www.odd-stuff.info/follies/brightling.htm