Brightling is a small village, which lies about 5 miles north-east of Battle off the B2096. The church, St Thomas a Becket, has several interesting features. In the churchyard is a pyramid where Brightling’s most famous resident John Fuller was buried in 1834. Local legend had it that he was buried seated at a table dressed in full evening dress with a bottle of claret. These stories were fund to be untrue during restoration on the tomb many years later. Mad Jack Fuller as he was known gave the church a unique barrel organ and a peal of bells.
Mad Jack Fuller was a larger than life man who lived at Brightling Park. The family fortune had been made from the iron industry. Mad Jack became MP for East Sussex and seems to have fostered an image of eccentricity. He was also quite a philanthropist and supported the arts and science. He was a patron of JMW Turner who painted views of Brightling. But perhaps Mad Jack is most famous for collection of follies he built around Brightling.
Brightling Needle, an obelisk over 65 feet (20m) high was built on the second highest point in East Sussex and was erected around 1810. The reason for its construction is not clear but it said that it was to commemorate Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar in 1805 or Wellington’s victory over Napoleon in 1815.
The Sugar Loaf, which is sometimes known as Fuller’s Point, is in a meadow and stands 35 feet (10.7m. The name comes from the conical shaped loaf that sugar was sold in at that time. It was apparently built to win a bet that Mad Jack made whilst in London. He claimed he could see Dallington Church (a nearby village) from his house in Brightling. When he returned he discovered that he couldn’t as a hill blocked his view, so the Sugar Loaf was hastily erected to win the bet.
The Tower or Watch Tower built by Fuller in the middle of a field, stands 35 feet (10.6m) high and 12 feet (3.7m) in diameter. There are several stories attached to it but it was built in the late 1820’s.
The Temple or Rotunda was built in the grounds of Brightling Park perhaps to add a classical element to the gardens. This was erected around 1810.
The Observatory, now a private residence was completed in 1810. It was equipped with all the equipment of the time including a Camera Obscura. It is thought that Turner may have used this on his visits to Rose Hill.