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John 'Mad Jack' Fuller

John Fuller (February 20, 1757 - April 11, 1834), better known as "Mad Jack" Fuller (although he himself preferred to be called "Honest John" Fuller) was Squire of the hamlet of Brightling, in Sussex (now East Sussex), and is well known as a builder of follies, and as a philanthropist, patron of the arts and sciences. He purchased and commissioned many paintings from J.M.W. Turner. He was sponsor and mentor to Michael Faraday.

Early life

Fuller was born on February 20, 1757 in North Stoneham, Hampshire. He was christened in the village of Waldron, near Heathfield in Sussex (now East Sussex), in the south of England. His parents were the Reverend Henry Fuller (January 15, 1713 - July 23, 1761) and his wife Frances, née Fuller (1725 - February 14, 1778)[1].

He lost his father in 1761, when he was four. At the age of ten, in 1767, he began his education at Eton College, a public school in Berkshire.

On May 7, 1777, Jack Fullerís uncle Rose Fuller, M.P died[1], leaving Jack his Sussex estates and Jamaican plantations. Jack Fuller thus took possesion of the Rose Hill estate (now Brightling Park) at Brightling at the age of 20.

Political career

In 1780, at the age of 22, Jack Fuller was elected to Parliament. He was Member of Parliament for Southampton from 1780 to 1784, and for Sussex from 1801 to 1812.

On July 17, 1781, Fullerís sister Elizabeth married Sir John Palmer Acland, a grandson of Sir Hugh Acland, 6th Bt., M.P, in St. Marylebone in London.

In 1790, at the age of 33, he proposed marriage to Susannah Arabella Thrale, but was rebuffed. In fact, he never married, and is not known to have had any children.

In 1796, Fuller was appointed High Sherrif of Sussex, for a period of one year, and in 1798, he became a captain in the Volunteer Sussex Yeomanry Cavalry. In the General Election of 1807, he was re-elected as MP for Sussex. However, on February 27, 1810, a drunken incident with the Speaker in Parliament led to him being seized by the Serjeant at Arms and to public disgrace.

In 1811, a pyramid-shaped building, often referred to as "the Pyramid", was erected in the churchyard of the Church of St. Thomas a Becket, Brightling (sic[1]?) as a future mausoleum for Jack Fuller.

Fuller retired from politics in 1812, not standing for re-election in the General Election of that year.

Later life

In 1818, Fuller built the Observatory at Brightling which had been designed by Sir Robert Smirke, and in 1822, he endowed Eastbourne in Sussex with its first lifeboat. In 1828, he financed the building of the Belle Tout lighthouse, on the cliff at Beachy Head, near Eastbourne, and it was built in 1832(?), replacing the wooden structure that was there previously[1]. On Thursday, September 18, 1828, Jack Fuller bought Bodiam Castle for 3000 guineas at auction to save it from destruction.

On the afternoon of Friday, April 11, 1834, Fuller died at his home, 36 Devonshire Place, London. He was buried in the Pyramid in Brightling churchyard. The main beneficiary of his will was his nephew, Peregrine Palmer Fuller Palmer Acland (1789-1871).

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