Saturday, December 17, 2005

Last Fortified Towers in Britain

The Round Towers at Roundhouse Farm in Nantyglo, Wales, were built by industrialists Crawshay and Joseph Bailey, who, by the early 19th century controlled much of the iron resources in the region, including the massive iron works at Nantyglo located about a mile south of Brynmawr. Fearing that their workers would one day rise against them, in 1816 the Baileys built the last fortified tower in Britain as a place of refuge against a potential worker's revolt. Today these ruins stand as unique and important reminder of the region's industrial strife.

Read the full article here.

Wey & Arun Canal Commemorated

Lord Egremont, the [Wey & Arun Canal] Trust President, officially unveiled a plaque at the Three Compasses Inn at Alsfold on Wednesday 12th August to commemorate the opening of the canal in 1816. Lord Egremont is the greatgreatgreat grandson of the 3rd Earl of Egremont, who promoted the canal and was the first Chairman of the Wey & Arun Junction Canal Company. The canal’s opening ceremony took place at the Inn on 29th September 1816 amidst great rejoicing when a roasted ox and 200 gallons of ale were consumed. The current landlord couldn’t quite match this but did provide various delicious snacks and drinks for the invited guests.
Lord Egremont also presented an original drawing of the Summit Level, by local artist John Russell Hayes, to Mr Jim McAllister of Dunsfold Park in recognition of his help and support. The Trust hopes to reopen the summit level past the Three Compasses Inn soon and has appointed a Summit Level manager for this purpose. View source here. Read more here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

"History Hunger" & Perch Hill Farm

I have just finished Perch Hill: A New Life by Adam Nicolson.
I found myself rereading entire pages simply to savour Nicolson's descriptions of the High Weald. He writes regarding his curiousity about the history of the 90 acre farm and its previous tennants:
"The written documents run out too early and are no good anyway, a list of men and, from time to time the tax they paid. 1832: Edmund Goldsmith is the tenant of John Fuller, known to history as Mad Jack, a rabid Tory, Member of Parliament, sugar-and-iron millionaire, folly-building eccentric, patron of Turner, buried in Brightling churchyard in a pyramid where he is said, erroneously, to be sitting down to a final gargantuan dinner at a cast-iron table. That's what we know about Jack Fuller. We don't know anything about Edmund Goldsmith. "pp. 121

Photos by Wealden artist Paul Jackson, with kind permission.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

BBC's Inside Out on Jack Fuller

Recently I've been contacted by Matthew Wheeler, a researcher for the BBC television program InsideOut. He writes:

It's a regional programme, on Monday evenings at 7.30 on BBC1. It aims to give viewers three surprising stories from East Sussex/Kent every week.

Each week we feature a heritage piece, and I'm researching for a piece we'd like to do on Mad Jack Fuller for the new series in Spring 2006. I found your excellent website and thought I'd get in touch to see if you could help me, and maybe give me some tips as to where to go and who to talk to in order to find out more.

Naturally we'll feature the various follies in the piece, but I'd like to focus on the lesser-known Jack Fuller stuff as well, stories that might be more surprising for locals; e.g. the fact that he saved Bodiam Castle from destruction.

The programme will be recorded before Christmas and will air in the spring of 2006.
Contact me if you can help.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Searching for Charles Croft

Known as the Brightling Needle, Jack Fuller's 65 foot tall obelisk stands atop a hill, variously known as Brightling Down and Brightling Beacon.

In 1985, extensive renovations were carried out to strengthen and stabilize the obelisk. Two local men who were involved with earlier repairs scratched these words into the structure: R Croft, 1899; and Charles Croft, July 29, 1889, aged 16 years.

A recent inquiry by a Croft family member has prompted me to try to find out who these men were. Were they residents of Brightling or skilled tradesmen brought in from a neighbouring town or village to complete the repairs to the obelisk?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

English Eccentrics by Dame Edith Sitwell

On English Eccentrics

In his blog, The Emotional Blackmailer's Handbook, Tristan Forward wrote: "i had to screech to a halt today after glimpsing one of mad jack fuller's follies
i'd been introduced to him by the late great edith sitwell in her lovely book "english eccentrics" which celebrates the energy and passion and humanity of those who are extremely disinhibited for one reason or another" (October 18, 2005)

A poet and literary critic, Edith Louisa Sitwell(1887-1964) "was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, of aristocratic but eccentric parentage of Lord George Sitwell and ex-socialite Lady Ida Sitwell of Renishaw Hall. She would later claim that she was descended from the Plantagenets. She had two younger brothers, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell who were well-known literary figures in their own right and long-term collaborators. Her relationship with her parents was stormy at best, especially when her father locked her into an iron frame to "correct" her supposed spine deformation. In her later autobiography she said that her parents had always been strangers to her."

I subsequently borrowed a copy of "Dame Edith Sitwell's witty excursion into the world of English Eccentrics", 1933. A quick check of the index revealed no mention of Jack Fuller. A thorough reading netted the same result. Can anyone shed any light onto the subject?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Perch Hill Farm

Jack Fuller bequeathed Perch Hill Farm to his gamekeeper Abraham Baxter:

"I give and direct unto Abraham Baxter of Brightling aforesaid my gamekeeper all that messuage or tenement farm lands and premises situate in the Parish of Brightling aforesaid called or known by the name of Perch Hill Farm which I lately purchased of George Hoad"
lines 70-72, Fuller's will

Adam Nicolson, Grandson of Harold Nicolson and Vita Sacville-West,his wife Sarah Raven and their children currently live at Perch Hill Farm. Nicolson wrote " Perch HIll Farm, A New Life", (Penguin,October 26, 2000, ISBN: 0140290893) about their adjustment to life in rural Sussex:

"Adam Nicolson's homage to a new life is set to become a modern classic of rural England. Funny, poetic, ironic and wise, this is a profoundly moving and beautifully crafted book about his search for the rural idyll.

A particularly savage mugging in London was the catalyst for his move in search of a rural Arcadia. And so, without knowing one end of a hay baler from the other, Adam Nicolson escaped with his family to a run-down farm in the Sussex Weald. What he found was a mixture of intense beauty and profound chaos. Over the three years that the book describes, he struggled with dockleaves, spring flowers, bloody-minded sheep, his neighbours, his woods and his fields, before eventually arriving at some kind of equilibrium.

Perch Hill traces the growing intimacy between a man and his chosen place, his love affair with it and his frustrations with its intractable realities. As an attempt to live out the pastoral vision, it makes one heartfelt pleas: we should never abandon our dreams."

Read full article here.

2005 marks the 200th anniversary of Nelson's victory at Trafalgar. The bell ringers at Brightling Church are participating in a national bell pull on Sunday October 29th to commemorate the event. Adam Nicolson's book "Seize the Fire : Heroism, Duty, and the Battle of Trafalgar" Harper Collins,September 1, 2005, ISBN: 0060753617) examines the cult of heroism from a new angle.

"Seize the Fire not only vividly describes the brutal realities of battle but enters the hearts and minds of the men who were there; it is a portrait of a moment, a close and passionately engaged depiction of a frame of mind at a turning point in world history."

For more detail click here.

Nicolson's wife, Sarah Raven has presented special features on the BBC's Gardeners' World about growing cut flowers and vegetables.

"Columnist and writer Sarah Raven runs gardening courses at her home Perch Hill Farm in Sussex, and manages a seed catalogue.
Sarah's well known for her love of growing flowers that can be cut and made into colourful indoor arrangements. As well as her home-run courses, she lectures all around Britain.
Sarah specialises in teaching people who've never picked up a spade, let alone pricked out a zinnia! Her seed catalogue contains unusual vegetables, salads and herbs, as well as flowers grown specifically for cutting. She grows plants to supply her courses, and for weddings and parties.
A columnist for a national newspaper, Sarah also writes for Sainsbury's Magazine. Her first book, The Cutting Garden, won The Specialist Gardening Book of the Year. Her more recent book, The Bold and Brilliant Garden, was runner-up to Gardening Book of the Year."


Sunday, August 28, 2005

Document Reveals Blind Charity

Rye and Battle Today, 06 June 2003

A 200-YEAR-OLD document which established a generous fund for the blind has been handed into the East Sussex Record Office.

The charity was founded in 1795 by John Fuller of Catsfield [Christened 20 Apr 1726,All Saints, Lewes; died unmarried 1810] cousin of the infamous 'Mad Jack' Fuller of Brightling [John Fuller of Catsfield was actually the brother of Mad Jack Fuller's mother Frances Fuller and thus his uncle not cousin]
The Catsfield Fuller was a wealthy landowner who nearly lost his sight due to disease. On his recovery, Fuller decided to help blind people around the county.
The deed guaranteed a princely sum of £60 a year raised from rent on a Great Lulhams farm, a 105-acre site in the parish of Ripe.
Amazingly, it's still valid.Christopher Whittick, senior archivist at the record office, explained. "In the olden times, if you wanted to secure a regular payment, one way to do it would be a deed of governance which gave part of the rent on the land to the party you had in mind.
"In this case the deed locked the liability of the £60 to the land, so if it was sold on the money still had to be paid by the new owner.
"Sometimes people paid a lump sum to clear it but as I understand it, this deed is still fixed to the land."
The deed was given to the rector and churchwardens at St Lawrence's Church, Catsfield, in order for them to collect and distribute the money.
Initially those deemed suitable received 16 shillings a month for the rest of their lives.
The annual income is still being collected by the church, but in latter days the distribution has been handled by Hastings Voluntary Association for the Blind.
Current St Lawrence vicar, Rev Jonathan Beswick, said: "I think the discovery of this document is a very timely reminder of the church's responsibility to the wider community.
"When it was founded this was of enormous value. £60 was an awful lot of money then but unfortunately it has never risen and the deed is less significant now."
The original deed was found to be missing in 1928, but the charity remained protected as someone realised that it had been recorded in the Chancery. It was recently discovered by a local historian.
Mr Whittick added: "The document is in perfect condition which is amazing considering it will be 200 years old in 2005.
"As well as being a very welcome addition to the holdings of the Record Office, the re-appearance of it reminds us of some important historical truths, like the immense generosity of wealthy landowners in the days before the nationalisation of poor relief and the financially terminal consequences of the failure of charities to re-invest - 208 years after its foundation, the charity's income can hardly be worth collecting.
The document is available at the Record Office in the Maltings, Lewes, and the document's reference is ACC 8775/1.

Life in Catsfield 1800-1910: History on our Doorstep - Chapter 3 Later 18th & 19th Century Landowners by Don Phillips, pp 9. Re John Fuller of Catsfield (1726-1810)

Inherited Park Gate in 1760. The house was named Catsfield House in his time. He suffered but recovered from blindness, this led him to set up a charity administerd by the rector and churchwardens of Catsfield church in 1795. The income from a rent charge on property in Ripe near Lewes was to be "for the use and benefit of six poor blind persons of the county of Sussex' [CVA Fuller charity deed]. After his death on 31 March 1810, a memorial by Nollekens was placed in the church at Catsfield by his nephew, John (Mad Jack) Fuller of Brightling. [Huchinson;97] John Fuller's will written in 1794 stated that £10, 000 was left to Rev Thomas Fuller of Heathfield [1755-1832; 1st cousin once removed of John Fuller of Catsfield]and all manors, messuages, lands and real estate to two trustees on behalf of his nephew John Fuller of Brightling and his heirs [ESRO SAS RF 11/28]. John had no heirs but did not die until 1834, the Rev Thomas Fuller is recorded as owning the Catsfield property in 1810 and purchased the manor of Broomham Park Gate from the Earl of Ashburnham in 1813 [Salzman;245] Presumably John and Thomas had come to an arrangement between themselves for the transfer of his estate.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Bollocks to Alton Towers: The Sugar Loaf

"On a lighter note the Sugar Loaf was mentioned on national radio recently as it has been included in "B****cks To Alton Towers"! The book lists unusual and eccentric tourist attractions and the Sugar Loaf gets a mention along with the story of its creation. I haven't seen the book although the radio article was very accurate in what it said about the Sugar Loaf so I guess the authors have done their homework."
Publisher Penguin is marketing this guide book, written by Jason Hazeley, Robin Halstead, Joel Morris & Alex Morris, for those craving an alternative to the typical tourist trap holiday.
"Wouldn't it be better to go somewhere that everyone else hasn't - somewhere with something more interesting to say than 'have a nice day' or 'keep your hands inside the car while the ride is in motion'?
This is your chance. Turn away from the theme park queue and take a wayward tour of the backwaters and byways of the British tourist trail, celebrating the small, fascinating and unique."

£12.99 Hardback 135 x 216mm 256 pages ISBN 071814791X 28 Apr 2005
With thanks to Richard Groves

Jack Fullers Pub: Closed

Agents Freeman Forman have listed the building for sale as a residential property. A snip at £795,000. The following is an excerpt from their "Full Particulars":

"DESCRIPTION: ‘Jack Fullers’ listed Grade II, dates from 1772 although it is believed the property actually replaced an earlier building. The property was extended in 1850 when the Coach House was added, which has now been restored. The property presents attractive elevations of mellow sandstone and local brick, under a peg tiled roof, recently run as a very successful restaurant and public house also catering for private functions. The gardens form a particular feature of the property, well stocked and offering seclusion and privacy, together with a large car park over which fabulous views can be enjoyed as well as from the principal rooms. The property benefits from planning permission enabling commercial or residential usage. "

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The Swing Riots

Source: The Swing Riots of 1830 & 1831
By: Jill M Chambers, Letchworth Garden City Hertfordshire

" It was in the autumn of 1830 that the agricultural labourers, mainly those in the southern half of England, rose up against their masters in an effort to better the lives of themselves and their families. By the beginning of 1831, instead of the improved working and living conditions they had hoped for, many families found themselves worse off with the breadwinner confined to prison or worse still on board the hulks awaiting transportation to either New South Wales or Van Diemen’s Land, as Tasmania was then called, and many of those left behind described as 'on the parish.' "

"The main counties from which men were transported were Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Dorset, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Huntingdon, Kent, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Sussex, and Wiltshire. One or two were also sentenced to transportation in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Herefordshire, Hertfordshire, Shropshire, Somerset, and Staffordshire."

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Brightling Observatory

Posted by Hello

© 2001 Annette Lloyd Thomas
Brightling Observatory, Engraving/Etching - William Bernard Cooke
from Painting - Joseph Mallord Turner

 Posted by Hello

Fuller & Turner

"Between 1810 and the early 1820s Turner worked closely for two very different patrons, whose quite specific interests were given lasting form as a result of their connection with the artist. The first was John Fuller (known as 'Mad Jack': 1757-1834), who was the Tory MP for Sussex between 1801 and 1812. Like Beckford, his wealth derived from sugar plantations in the West Indies, and he was accordingly a vocal supporter of slavery. The connection with Turner began in 1810 with a request for a set of four watercolours showing Fuller's Sussex estate, Rosehill, and those of other neighbouring country houses. At much the same time Turner produced an oil painting of Rosehill though this is perhaps the least involving of his country house pictures; the strongly delineated areas of shadow across the middle distance creates an awkward transition, as the eye travels towards the distant speck of the mansion. He subsequently painted further views recording the lush undulating landscape to the north and west of Hastings, much of which was owned by Fuller. One of these later watercolours includes the observatory Fuller constructed high on the brow of a hill in Brightling Park, where he pursued his amateur interest in astronomy. However, its diminutive scale in the image suggests that Turner used the commission to emphasize the beauties of the scenery, instead of the characteristic interests of his patron. "

Turner at Petworth, Christopher Rowell, Ian Warrell & David Blayney Brown, pp. 52