Saturday, April 20, 2002

Mad Jack and Bodiam Castle

"Bodiam Castle played a part in the life of John Fuller and it would be quite reasonable to state that but for the action of the colourful squire in 1828 there would be no castle to view at all.
For in 1828 Bodiam castle was nothing more than a decaying neglected shambles of a building. The damage inflicted during the Civil war in 1645 had been allowed to deteriorate to such a state that the castle was in danger of having to be totally demolished. A firm of Hastings builders stood ready to carry out the task.
However a last ditch attempt to find a purchaser was made and posters were displayed which declared 'the ancient castle of Bodiham and 25 acres of land' were to be sold by auction under the hammer of Mr George Robins of Covent Garden, London - by direction of a man of rank. The auction would take place 'at the Auction Mart, opposite the Bank of England, on Thursday 18th September 1828, at Twelve o'clock.
The man of rank - and owner of the castle at that time - was Baronet Sir Godfrey Webster, of the well known Sussex family, who were also owners of the nearby Battle Abbey estate.
..........Such was the sorry condition of the abbey estate in 1742 that the architect Sir Horace Walpole was prompted to note that 'the grounds and what has been the park, lie in a vile condition'. It would appear that Bodiam Castle had declined to the same level in 1828. Thankfully this time there was to be a saviour.

Source: "Fuller of Sussex, A Georgian Squire" - Geoff Hutchinson

"In 1829 Bodiam Castle was almost a wreck. A local man wanted to buy it in order to use it's stones in his buildings. Lord Curzon tells of its purchase by Fuller to save it from absolute destruction.
When the third Sir Godfrey Webster was hard-up he sold, for £3000, the castle and lands, amounting to 24 acres, 3 roods and 8 perches, to 'Honest Jack' who restored the southern Postern Tower and fitted folding oak gates in the main entrance. When Fuller died his cousin Augustus Elliot Fuller, inherited the castle as tenant for life. He was followed by his only son, Owen John Augustus Fuller, who married Clara Meyrick and assumed the additional name Meyrick.
He sold the castle and manor in 1864, to George Cubitt, MP (later the first Lord Ashcombe) for something over £5000.
Lord Curzon bought the castle from Ashcombe, restored it thoroughly and then gave it to the nation.
We have to thank 'Honest Jack' for saving, for us all, one of the finest castles in the south. The museum by the castle contains a picture of him in memory of his public spirited action."

Source: "John Fuller Esquire of Rose-Hill" - James Lawrie

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