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Bexhill and Battle MP, Huw Merriman, has put his support behind a local fund-raising campaign to preserve the John “Mad Jack” Fuller Mausoleum in Brightling which is in urgent need of repair.

Huw visited the unusual pyramid mausoleum in Brightling parish churchyard last Thursday after hearing about the campaign from Brightling resident and campaign fundraiser, Jane Beard. John “Mad Jack” Fuller, a local landowner and MP, had an eccentric reputation and was said to have been buried in the mausoleum in full dress, top hat and holding a bottle of wine. As well as building his own mausoleum, Jack built a number of interesting follies around his estate, now called Brightling Park.

Jack Fuller was a wealthy man who, at the age of 20, inherited land in Sussex, sugar plantations in Jamaica and iron founding on the Weald. During his lifetime he enjoyed supporting good causes and assumed the role of local philanthropist. Amongst his achievements he paid for the first lifeboat at Eastbourne, towards the building of the Belle Tout Lighthouse on the cliffs at nearby Beachy Head, saved Bodiam Castle from demolition and funded science fellowships and research at the Royal Institute.

During his 11 years representing East Sussex in Parliament from 1801 to 1812 he was considered a larger than life character. During this time he supported the abolition of “paupers badges” a humiliating system which meant those in receipt of parish support, a localised system of benefits, had to sew a ‘P’ onto their clothing to show their status as a pauper. However, as a plantation owner, he opposed the bill for the abolition of slavery which was against popular opinion at the time.

Huw said “The pyramid mausoleum at Brightling parish church is a significant architectural building which isn’t just the final resting place for an eccentric local character, it also serves to remind us of important events in our local and national history. Whilst Mad Jack Fuller is remembered for his many philanthropic achievements, as well as his follies across Brightling Park, it’s important that we also do not forget that he opposed the abolition of slavery which was out of kilter with public opinion at the time. By preserving this building for future generations we can ensure that we also use this opportunity to continue to acknowledge, discuss and debate Britain’s history both good and bad.”

Jane Beard, a lead organiser of the fund-raising campaign, said “We are trying very hard to not only raise public awareness to the plight of this important part of our history, but also to provide opportunity for more people to get involved, perhaps by donating, or perhaps by joining in with all the planned special events which will arise once work has been completed. Huw Merriman’s support is very greatly appreciated in these respects.”

For further information about the campaign please contact Jane Beard at email address fullernew@gmail.com