Pages 380-381, Macmillan and Co, Limited 1912
Four miles west of Robertsbridge, up hill and down, is Brightling, whose Needle, standing on Brightling Down, 646 feet high, is visible from most of the eminences in this part of Sussex.
The obelisk, together with the neighbouring observatory, was built on the site of an old beacon by the famous Jack Fuller - famous no longer, but in his day (he died in 1834 aged seventy-seven) a character both in London and in Sussex. He was big and bluff and wealthy and the squire of Rose Hill. He sat for Sussex from 1801 to 1812, and was once carried from the house by the Sergeant at Arms and his minions, for refusing to give way in a debate and calling the Speaker "the insignificant little fellow in a wig." His election cost him £10,000 plus £30,000 subscribed by the county. When Pitt offered him a peerage he said no: "I was born Jack Fuller and Jack Fuller I'll die." When he travelled from Rose Hill to London Mr. Fuller's progress was almost regal. The coach was provisioned as if for arctic exploration and coachman and footmen alike were armed with swords and pistols. ("Honest Jack," as Mr Lower remarks, put a small value upon the honesty of others.) Mr. Fuller had two hobbies, music and science. He founded the Fullerian professorships (which he called his two children), and contributed liberally to the Royal Institution; and his musical parties in London were famous. But whether it is true that when the Brightling choir dissatisfied him he presented the church with nine bassoons, I cannot say.
John Fuller has a better claim to be remembered in Sussex by his purchase of Bodiam Castle, when its demolition was threatened, and by his commission to Turner to make pictures in the Rape of Hastings, five of which were engraved and published in folio form in 1819, under the title Views in Sussex. One of these represents the Brightling Observatory as seen from Rosehill Park. As a matter of fact, the observatory, being of no interest, is almost invisible, although Mr. Reinagle, A.R.A., who supplies the words to the pictures, calls it the "most important point in the scene". Furthermore, he says that the artist has expressed a shower proceeding "from the left corner". Another picture is the Vale of Ashburnham, with the house in the middle distance, Beachy Head beyond, and in the foreground woodcutters carrying wood in an ox waggon. "The whole," says Mr. Reinagle, A.R.A., "is happily composed, if I may use the term." He then adds: "The eye of the spectator, on looking at this beautifully painted scene, roves with an eager delight from one hill to another, and seems to play on the dappled woods till arrested by the seat of Lord Ashburnham." Other picutes in the folio are "Pevensey Bay from Crowhurst Park," a very beautiful scene, "Battle Abbey," and " The Vale of Heathfield," painted from above the road, with Heathfield House on the left, the tower on the right, the church in the centre in the middle distance, and the sea on the horizon: an impressive but not strictly veracious landscape.
In Brightling church is a bust to John Fuller, with the motto: "Utile nihil quod non
honestum." A rector in Fuller's early days was William Hayley, who died in 1789, a zealous antiquary. His papers relating to the history of Sussex, are now, like those of Sir William Burrell, in the British Museum.