Heathfield, Punnetts Town, Broad Oak

HISTORY SOCIETY: At the meeting this month Geoff Hutchinson did not talk about Mad Jack Fuller, he was Mad Jack Fuller. A round of applause greeted his entrance and even a brief power cut which put the community centre into darkness did not break the spell. Jack himself admitted that he had enjoyed a long and privileged life. He was born into wealth and inherited even more. He told of his early success as an MP, captain of the Sussex Gentlemen and Yeomanry Cavalry and High Sheriff of Sussex. He was proud of these early successes but admitted that as a young man in London he lived up to the description of him as ‘wild, loud, rich and gay’ and that he had made as many enemies as friends. Things came to a head for him when in 1810 an incident with the Speaker in Parliament led to his seizure by the Sergeant-at-Arms and public disgrace. Jack explained that as his wealth came primarily from the slave labour on his Jamaican sugar plantations he clashed with the anti-slave supporters of Wilberforce. He fell deeply in love with Susannah Thrale but she refused him and he never again sought marriage. Disillusioned by events and his own behaviour he retired from politics in1812 and returned to Rose Hill in Brightling where he vowed to change his life.

His mood changed from sadness to one of pride in his subsequent achievements. His building projects provided work for the people of the area, the Temple on the Hill, the Obelisk, the Observatory, the Spire at Dallington and the Hermit’s Tower. His money provided the first lifeboat at Eastbourne, the Belle Tout Lighthouse at Beachy Head and the Infirmary in Hastings. He saved Bodiam Castle from destruction when he bought it for 3,000 guineas at auction. He also supported the arts and his interest in science led him to sponsor the Royal Institution in London setting up professorships in Chemistry and Physiology and acting as mentor to Michael Farraday.

Jack told us that he felt that he had atoned for his earlier indiscretions. He died in 1834 and was buried in the pyramid shaped mausoleum he had built in Brightling churchyard and no doubt to the tolling of the six bells which he had donated. We were sorry to see him go.

Our next meeting will take place on Thursday May 17 at 7.30pm in the community Centre when Dr Geoffrey Mead will talk entitled Sussex Industrial History, a different view. Why not come and join us.

TALK: Friends of All Saints Church, Old Heathfield present The History of the Palace of Westminster, the Houses of Parliament, by Kevin Gordon, May 17 in The Space, All Saints Church. A virtual, illustrated tour of the Houese of parliament presented by a registered and active guide to the Palace of Westminster.

24 HOUR PRAYER VIGIL: Arranged by Churches Together in Heaathfield and District, 24 Hour Prayer Vigil for Christian Unity, Friday May 4 8pm, and Saturday May 5 8pm. Come and participate in the vigil based at St Richard’s Church. Sign up by using the lists in all participating churches. Opening session Friday 8pm to 9pm.

CHARITY FASHION SHOW: In aid of the Children’s Respite Trust, Thursday May 3, 7pm at Kings Church, State Hall. Tickets £10 to include a glass of wine and canapés. There will also be a bar selling local wines and soft drinks. Fantastic raffle prizes to be won. All proceeds from the raffle will go to The Children’s Respite Trust. A unique opportunity to receive fashion advice and preview and buy the latest fashion trends at reduced prices. Tickets available from local businesses and online through EventBrite.