Situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty, the pretty village of Brightling in East Sussex is the ideal English rural retreat. But for all its antiquated cottages, ancient church and village pub, Brightling’s most striking feature is arguably “The Pyramid” tomb of former resident “Mad Jack” Fuller.
Born in 1757, John “Mad Jack” Fuller was a member of parliament for Sussex and acted as a mentor to young physicist Michael Faraday. Known for his eccentric ways, Fuller preferred to call himself “Honest John” while everyone else called him Mad Jack. A noted philanthropist (meaning “the love of humanity”) on the one hand, he was a dedicated supporter of slavery on the other.
Mad Jack was elected to parliament in 1780 after serving with the Sussex Militia. A well known drunk, he was publicly disgraced after an incident with the Speaker of the House saw him seized by the Serjeant-at-Arms in 1810. After his marriage proposal was rejected outright by Susannah Arbella Thrale, Mad Jack never wed and much of his estate passed to his nephew, Peregrine Palmer Fuller Palmer Acland.
Like many powerful people in England at that time, Mad Jack dedicated much of his wealth to the building of follies, decorative and extravagant structures with – on the whole – no practical purpose whatsoever, said to “transcend the normal range of garden ornaments or other structures”.
It is no surprise, then, that Mad Jack Fuller constructed a flamboyant mausoleum as a striking memorial to himself. Reported to have occupied the site of a pub called The Green Man, which was relocated, Fuller constructed his Pyramid mausoleum in 1811, but wasn’t laid to rest there until his death 23 years later. Today, The Pyramid remains a landmark structure outside the Church of St. Thomas à Becket, Brightling.