Thursday, 20 February 2014

The Singular Life of "Mad Jack" Fuller

John Fuller (AKA Mad Jack Fuller, Honest John Fuller; North Stoneham, Hampshire, England, 20th February 1757 – London, England, 11th April 1834)

John Fuller by Charles Turner, after Henry Singleton, 1808
John Fuller by Charles Turner, after Henry Singleton, 1808
Today we meet a man with a very particular reputation; known to history as Mad Jack Fuller, though he preferred Honest John, our salon guest is John Fuller, politician, philanthropist and builder of pyramids!

Fuller was born the son of Reverend Henry Fuller and his wife, Frances; indeed, he was also cousin to one of our previous guests, Sir Hans Sloane. Fuller enjoyed a privileged education at Eton College and at the age of 20 came into a fortune in property both in Sussex and Jamaica on the death of his uncle, Rose Fuller MP. Chief amongst the inheritance was Rose Hill Estate, now known as Brightling Park.

Fuller took up residence as squire of Brightling, and in 1780 began his parliamentary career as MP for Southampton, a seat he held for four years before moving on to become Sheriff of Sussex. As the years drew on he set his cap in the direction of Susannah Arabella Thrale, daughter of Hester, but the young lady rejected his proposal and Fuller never married. Instead, he concentrated on his professional life and returned to Westminster in 1801, this time as MP for Sussex. 

In fact, it was in the House of Commons where Fuller created a dreadful scandal when, in 1810, he drunkenly harangued the Speaker of the House of Commons and was physically removed from the chamber by the Serjeant-at-Arms and a number of clerks. A passionate supporter of slavery, he spoke on the matter on numerous occasions in the House of Commons and was never short of an opinion on most matters.


Fuller's Tomb
Fuller's Tomb

In 1811, Fuller supervised the building of a pyramid in the churchyard of the Church of St. Thomas à Becket in Brightling, which was intended to serve as his final resting place. The following year he retied from parliament and transferred his interests to a passionate support of Royal Institution. Here he mentored Michael Faraday and in 1818 he built the Observatory at Brightling, going on to many philanthropic activities.

John Fuller died in London; in accordance with his wishes he was returned to Sussex and laid to rest beneath the pyramid.

11 comments:

  1. Was he just fascinated with pyramids or did it mean something deeper to him? I've never seen anything similar before. He sounds like a fun and boisterous character to have known though, although it was rather sad that he never married after being rejected.

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    1. He was a serial folly builder, and this was his final folly!

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  2. Have you any idea how and when he first made contact with the Thrales,Madame?

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    1. There's a nice article on it at this link, sir: http://johnmadjackfuller.homestead.com/romance.html

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  3. Was it only his tomb that was influenced by Egyptian revival? Or there other instances of Jack Fuller being interested in Egypt?

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    1. I haven't come across any other evidence of an Egyptian fascination, I suspect he was driven more by his love of follies.

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  4. I've been to Brightling and seen the pyramid. I was looking for the grave of Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, buried in the same churchyard.

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  5. I went to Brightling to find the grave of Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon, and saw the pyramid.

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  6. Why was he called "Mad Jack"? Because of the pyramid?

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    1. He was enormously eccentric and what might be termed a character; there's a whole site about him at http://johnmadjackfuller.homestead.com and it's well worth a look!

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