It has been said that Fuller's inspiration for building the Observatory came from his friend noted astronomer Sir William Herschel (1728-1822). Born Friedrich Wilhelm Herschel in Hanover, Germany, Herschel is perhaps best known for his discovery of  the planet Uranus in 1781. He was appointed private astronomer to the king the following year. He subsequently discovered the Uranian satellites Titania and Oberon in 1787 and Mimas and Enceladus, two of the moons of Saturn, in 1789. 

It is possible however, that it was this renowned stargazer's son John Herschel (1792-1871) who was more of a direct influence on Fuller's interest in astronomy. 
Sir William Herschel
Designed by Sir Robert Smirke  for Jack Fuller in 1810, the Brightling Observatory was completed in 1818. It is located on the Brightling-Burwash road,  at latitude 50 57 44 and in longitude 0 22 42E, and is now a private residence.
The Observatory was furnished with expensive equipment including a Camera Obscura and high powered telescope.  During the 19th century, room Camera Obscuras became very popular across Europe.  Originating from the Latin meaning " dark room " the Camera Obscura is considered the forerunner of the modern portable camera. Through a tiny hole in one wall, replaced in later models by a lens, an image was projected onto the opposite wall.  Artists used different types of Camera Obscura to trace accurate images from nature and incorporate these images into their drawings and paintings. With this in mind, one wonders if frequent visitor to Rose Hill, J M W Turner may have made use of the Camera Obscura while there. 

Fuller was not the only Georgian Squire to construct an Observatory that incorporated a residence.  The Armagh Observatory, Ireland, perhaps the best preserved example. It was designed by Francis Johnston and completed in 1791.  More typically western European observatories of the day were towers erected basically to raise the observer to a better vantage point. 
Armagh Observatory, Ireland
Brightling Observatory

In the autumn of 1964 John Vetterlein was engaged by Commander Hugh Malleson (Royal Navy retired), then owner of the observatory, to assess its viability. Installation of a Cassegrain type telescope of 8.5 inches (22 cm) aperture was proposed. However, the aperture of the original dome was deemed too narrow for a telescope of this aperture to function effectively. Vetterlein was commissioned to design a new dome which he constructed at R N Irving & son. 

© 2001 Annette Lloyd Thomas
© 2001 Annette Lloyd Thomas
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Fuller's Follies: The Observatory
Description: The Observatory

Grade: II*
Date Listed: 3 August 1961
English Heritage Building ID: 292428

OS Grid Reference: TQ6706920748
OS Grid Coordinates: 567069, 120748
Latitude/Longitude: 50.9619, 0.3777

Location: Willingford Lane, Brightling, 
East Sussex TN32 5HL

Locality: Brightling
Local Authority: Rother District Council
County: East Sussex


Source: British Listed Buildings

Armagh Observatory, Ireland
Obelisk
Observatory
Temple
Pyramid
Sugar Loaf
Other
Tower
Summerhouse
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