November 4th, 2019

Not As Mad As All That

When a man is known to his contemporaries as "Mad Jack" you expect there to be lots of amusing stories about him, but in the case of "Mad Jack" Fuller (1757-1834)- Squire of Brightling and (by droit de Seigneur) MP for his corner of Sussex- the cupboard is almost bare. It's said he wore his hair in a pigtail long after it ceased to be the fashion and travelled with such a large entourage that people mistook him for the Prince of Wales. Also he drank a lot. The maddest ascertainable fact about him is that he once got himself chucked out of Parliament for being drunk and abusive.

The Times reported that he'd called the speaker "that insignificant little person in a wig".

So not so much "Mad Jack" as "Tiresome Jack".

His wealth came from iron foundries and West Indian sugar plantations.

He made guns. He owned slaves.

On the plus side he used his money to fund lighthouses, support scientific research- in particular the work of the chemist Michael Faraday- and buy pictures off Turner. He also built follies.

It must have been the follies that earned him his nickname.

Six of them are still standing- the most accessible of which is the mausoleum in Brightling churchyard. He may (but I haven't checked) be the only British person to be buried in a pyramid.

Legend has it that he was placed inside, wearing a top hat, sitting at table with a bottle of claret in front of him. The truth is that they dug him in under the floor.