Vol. 76: The Fuller Letters, 1728-1755



Editors: David Crossley & Richard Saville
Volume: Volume 76
Published 1991
ISBN: 978 085445 037 4

‘I am afraid you do not keep copyes of your letters; if you do not it will be impossible to keep up a Regular Correspondence. And you being entrusted with so many People’s Business you ought to do so’ wrote John Fuller of Brightling to his son, Dr. Rose Fuller of Jamaica in 1734.

This letter book is one of the most important collections of business and social correspondence from a leading eighteenth century county family to be published in recent years, It records the rise to wealth and influence of the Fuller family of Brightling Park. Originally from humble beginnings in an inhospitable and forested part of the Weald of Sussex, they had in the eighteenth century – diversified into slave owning in Jamaica, expanded their ironfounding and gun-casting in the Weald and greatly enlarged their Sussex estates, and by mid-century held significant holdings in London stocks. The letters explain how these business interests worked, and give the reader unique insights into the life of an eighteenth century landowner.

The letters also contain the only major surviving record of the charcoal iron industry to include substantial comment on the technical problems, how furnaces were operated, how guns were cast, and where they were sold. The Fullers were one of the major gun producers for the Navy and the Army at this time; their products were in demand as far away as Sardinia and the Austro-Hungarian – Empire.

There is much information on Wealden weather and road conditions, on the difficulty of running a Jamaica sugar plantation, and the problems of involvement in the London sugar-refining trade. There is extensive comment on Wealden agriculture, based as it was on one of the more intractable soils in southern England, on how tenants were dealt with, and the crops they grew. As befitting a county family there is material on political affairs – the Fullers were Tories – on social and educational questions and the arrangements made for sons to go into business. Of interest to all who want to know more about Sussex history, this volume will also stand on its own as an important contribution to our knowledge of gun casting and ironworking, Wealden agriculture, the Jamaica sugar trade, and how eighteenth century landowners organised their estates.

David Crossley is a Reader at the University of Sheffield. He teaches archaeology over the historic periods, from medieval to industrial, as well as economic history. His excavations have largely been on iron and glass making sites, subjects involving the study of water power and the history of woodland management. He edited the journal Post Medieval Archaeology for ten years, and is now joint editor of Historical Metallurgy.

Richard Saville is a Lecturer at St Andrews University. He teaches economic history from the seventeenth century, and his publications include work on both Scottish and English history. He is currently a Council member of the Navy Records Society.

Crown Quarto: Cloth Binding: Laminated Colour Jacket; xxxxviii + 307 pages; index and 10 illustrations

Cover picture: Rosehill in Brightling by S.H. Grimm, 1784 (British Library, Add M.S. 5670 f. 65.)