John "Mad Jack" Fuller's philanthropy extended to the church. His parish church in Brightling has been known as both St. Thomas of Canterbury and St. Thomas à Becket and is adjacent to his Rose Hill Estate. Many of Fuller's generous gifts are still in evidence there.
This 13th and 14th Century church is in the diocese of Chichester, and archdeaconry of Lewes. The current residents of Rose Hill, now called Brightling Park, still use the squire's pew behind which is a window emblazoned with the Fuller coat of arms.
Fuller had the five bells in the church's tower recast and a new treble added. The inscription reads: "The five bells recast and a new treble added at the expense of John Fuller Esq, late member for this county . Anno Domini 1815. In honour of the illustrious Duke of Wellington, his last six victories are here recorded".
The recast bells were given the names of five of Wellington's battles in the Peninsular War:
Tallavera July 27- 28, 1809
Salamanca July 22, 1812
Vittoria June 21, 1813
Pyrenees July 25 - August 2, 1813
Orthes February 27, 1814
The new treble bell commemorates an additional battle:
Toulouse April 10, 1814
Two bells were given in 1818, inscribed 'Waterloo', so making a peal of eight. One of these was inscribed "This peal of bells was completed Anno Domini 1818 at the expense of John Fuller Esq."
In 1820 Fuller commissioned W. A. A. Nicholls to make the barrel organ, which is the largest of its kind in Britain still in full working order. This replaced an earlier barrel organ which went to New Zealand and is currently in the Wanganui Museum. A gallery to support the new organ was also funded by Fuller. This magnificent instrument has six stops with two barrels each playing twelve tunes. A printed label at the back of the chest reads: 'W.A.A.Nicholls, son-in-law and successor to the late G.P. England, No.9 Stephen Street, Tottenham Ct. Rd.'
"In preparation for a visit by the bishop Fuller refurbished the interior of the church by boxing in and plastering the walls of the nave and chancel and painting them with whitewash. Unfortunately, in his enthusiasm, he painted over some of the extremely rare wall paintings which adorned the church. They were rediscovered in 1966."
Fuller of Sussex: A Georgian Squire by G. Hutchinson, p. 94.
Dr. Primrose Blair
St Thomas à Becket , Brightling
Jack Fuller is immortalized in his parish church by a marble bust he commissioned Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey (1781-1841) to sculpt. Portrayed in the Roman style, complete with toga, Fuller had this motto inscribed on the bust:
'Utile nihil quod non honestrum'
Nothing is of use which is not honest
The sketches done for this bust are the property of the National Portrait Gallery, London.
Fuller also had the lives of Dr Primrose Blair and William Shield commemorated in Brightling Church;
To the Memory of Dr Primrose Blair, formerly physician to his majesty's fleet in the West Indies who died on the 27th day of January 1819, in the 60th year of his age. His remains are deposited in the vault on the north side of St. Martin's Church London. He was a man most eminent in the skill of his profession, and one of inflexible integrity. John Fuller ESq. D.D.D.
(Dat, Dicat, Dedicat - Latin for Gives, Devotes and Dedicates)