John ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller
Squire John Fuller (aka ‘Mad Jack Fuller’) lived at Brightling Park in the 19th century. He was outspoken, eccentric and rich, a patron of the arts and sciences, and sponsor and mentor to Michael Faraday. He endowed Eastbourne with its first lifeboat, financed the building of the Belle Tout lighthouse at Beachy Head, provided the barrel organ and bells for St Thomas a Becket church and bought Bodiam Castle at auction to save it from demolition. In the early 19th century he built a number of follies in and around Brightling. He purchased and commissioned many paintings from JMW Turner. He is buried under the pyramid in the churchyard.
Jack Fuller is often referred to as a philanthropist. However a substantial part of the wealth that underwrote his philanthropy came from his sugar plantation in Jamaica, where the work was done by a large number of slaves. At his death, his estate “owned” about 270 enslaved people. Fuller was a strong opponent of the abolition of the slave trade and the freeing of slaves, using his position as MP to campaign against both. There is no evidence that he was aware of the contradiction between his “philanthropy” at home and the situation on his sugar plantation.
Barbara Leigh-Smith Bodichon
Born in 1827, Barbara Bodichon was an artist and life-long campaigner for the rights of women. She co-founded Girton Ladies College, Cambridge and was the driving force behind many projects working for reform, especially in the spheres of education and political rights for women. She had Scalands Gate (now Scalands House) built on the family estate in Brightling where she entertained friends such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Elliott and landscape gardener Gertrude Jekyll. She is buried in the churchyard.
Barbara Bodichon’s brother, Benjamin, is also buried in the churchyard. Born in 1928 he lived at Glottenham Manor, moving later to ‘Scalands’ in Brightling. He was one of the most intrepid explorers of the 19th Century, leading five expeditions to the Arctic and surviving for 10 months after his ship was crushed between two ice floes.
Cold Comfort Farm
The 1995 BBC adaptation of Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons was filmed in Brightling, including Great Worge Farm and Brightling church.