The name ‘Brightling’ is said to derive from the settlement of Britas people. In common with many Wealden settlements, the main village has always been very small with many hamlets and scattered farms. There are no known prehistoric finds in the parish but early man certainly was in the area, clearing the land, farming and making iron. By the early middle ages, however, the area had reverted back to dense woodland. Much of the current settlement pattern dates back to the Saxon period, when the area was again cleared for agriculture. Families would clear an area of woodland or scrub, just enough for them to make a living but leaving some woodland in the form of thick hedges or spinneys between fields. They would build their farm in the centre of the land and link up with a rudimentary trackway system that eventually formed the pattern of narrow winding lanes that typify this area.
The most obvious ‘industry’ in the area is agriculture yet well hidden below ground is the Gypsum mine with a conveyor to the plasterboard processing plant at Mountfield.
Anne Holman has written a book about the history of Brightling:
Brightling 1700-1950 An Old & Ancient Place. Price £10+£2.50 p&p. Available from Anne at Hollingrove, Broad Hill Close, Broad Oak, Heathfield, TN21 8SG. Tel: 01435 862865 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brightling Park (entrance next to the church) is the home of Di & Gardie Grissell, who have operated a racehorse training facility there since 1976. International Horse Trials are held there annually and various areas of the Park are hired out for weddings, parties and corporate events. An annual music festival has been held in the walled garden since 2015.
There has been a house on the site since the mid 16th century, when it was known as Rose Hill. The current Grade II house, stables and coach-house were built around 1755 by John Fuller. The Fuller family earned their fortune through the manufacture of Sussex iron in the 17th and 18th centuries and sugar plantations in Jamaica. Associated with the estate are a number of follies and an observatory, all designed by architect Sir Robert Smirke for John “Mad Jack” Fuller in the early 1800s.