follies and Mad Jack
Jack - true British eccentric|
© National Portrait Gallery, London
Out looks at some unusual features on the Sussex landscape, and asks if their
creator John Fuller was mad or just slightly eccentric?
A pyramid isn't
what you'd normally expect to see in an English graveyard.
But this pyramid
isn't in Egypt - it's in Brightling, East Sussex.
It's not the tomb of
an Egyptian pharaoh, it's the tomb of a Georgian squire - Mad Jack Fuller.
real Mad Jack
So who was the real Jack Fuller?
Born John Fuller
in 1757, Mad Jack was MP for Lewes and incredibly rich.
He got his nickname
from the way he spent his money, trying to make sure he was remembered.
he is remembered, as 'Mad' Jack.
But how mad was he? To find out, Inside
Out has assembled a team of experts:
- Keith Leech - member of Mad Jack's
- Celia Caulkin - leads walks around Mad Jack's
- Geoff Hutchinson - he's written a book about Mad Jack.
So was Mad Jack actually mad? Let's look at the evidence!
Leech says that Mad Jack was a very keen gambler.
|Keith Leech stands by Mad Jack's Sugar Loaf|
had a bet that he could see Dallington Church spire from his house. When he got
home, he discovered that he couldn't.
Rather than losing the bet, he built
the Sugar Loaf.
In Mad Jack's day days sugar used to come in conical shaped
containers, hence the nickname.
The important thing about the folly was
what it looked like from Jack's house, a mile or so away.
From the horizon,
the Sugar Loaf looks like the spire of a church.
It must have cost Jack
a small fortune, much more than he would have won on the bet.
Bodiam Castle is an East Sussex landmark, one of the most beautiful castles
in the world.
But in Mad Jack's day the castle was in a terrible state,
and it was on the verge of being demolished.
The castle's owner was Sir
Godfrey Webster. Unlike Fuller he wasn't a rich man.
|Bodiam - the castle that Mad Jack saved|
Godfrey simply didn't have the money to maintain the castle.
that had been done to it in the civil war had never been repaired, and the whole
building was gradually falling into ruin.
So Sir Godfrey decided to auction
A group of builders from Hastings builders were the favourites
to buy it, and demolish it to use the stone from the castle to repair local roads.
builders would have got away with it too if it hadn't been for Jack Fuller.
show that Jack stepped in and bought the castle, for £3,000, and saved it
from the demolition team.
"Whenever I visit Bodiam Castle
I always tip my hat to Mad Jack. Subsequent owners of the castle did a huge amount
to restore it to the wonderful attraction it is today.
But if it hadn't
been for Jack Fuller there wouldn't have been a castle here at all." Geoff
Tower of dreams
Another of Jack's
magical projects was a strange tower which looks like something from a magical
|Mad Jack's magical tower in the middle of a field|
knows exactly why Mad Jack built his tower surrounded by trees in the middle of
Celia Caulkin says that some people say he built it so he could
signal to Bodiam Castle.
But in reality you can't even see Bodiam from here.
he just built if for a bit of fun?
example of Jack's buildings is a wall extending right the way round Fuller's estate
at Brightling Park.
Mad Jack had it built around 1816. The wall is six
feet high and it extends for four miles.
Today the wall looks a bit excessive
but there was a good ulterior motive for it.
Following the Napoleonic wars
there was no employment. So Fuller built a wall around the estate to provide much
needed employment at a critical time.
"This was an act of philanthropy,
not insanity," says Geoff Hutchinson.
There was clearly method in Jack's
act of madness.
One of Mad Jacks' more bizarre
creations is The Obelisk, an impressive folly with no apparent reason behind it.
I bring people here, they always ask, why did Fuller build this?", says Celia
"It does look like it's been put up for a reason doesn't it?
But it has no inscription on it and Fuller left no explanation for why it was
This is the frustrating thing about Fuller. Just when
you've decided he was mad, he does something sane.
And just when you think
he's a rational, sensible man, he goes and builds a 65 foot tall needle with no
In the early 1800's the stretch of coast
near Eastbourne was notorious for shipwrecks
In February 1822, Jack Fuller
looked out to sea and to his horror he saw a vast 1,500 ton ship which had run
On that day he decided that what this place needed was a lighthouse
so Jack built the Belle Toute.
Sadly his wooden lighthouse no longer exists.
The second Belle Toute we see today was built on the same location, close to the
The lighthouse was just one example of Jack Fuller's
desire to share his wealth and do something to help others.
the good intentions his lighthouse didn't work very well. Up on the cliff top,
it couldn't be seen by ships in the mist.
So we've seen the evidence,
now we need a verdict. Mad or not mad? What does our panel of experts think?
"Mad. Definitely mad. I don't think we could call ourselves Mildly Eccentric
Jack's Morris." Keith Leech.
"Oh no. Not mad. A colourful, fascinating,
"Child of the times. A typical
Georgian squire. Larger than life, very generous, very eccentric. And totally
sane." Geoff Hutchinson.
So our panel has decided by two
to one, that Mad Jack was actually sane. But perhaps he wouldn't mind what we
call him, as long as we remember him.
He'd probably he'd just be very
pleased, lying there under that pyramid, to know that more than 170 years after
his death, people are still making a song and dance about him.
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