Historical Importance of Mawanella Brick Bridge – මාවනැල්ල ගඩොල් පාලමේ ඉතිහාසය

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Mawanella Brick Arc Bridge, built in 1932-33

Mawanella Brick Arc Bridge, built in 1932-33
Photo By : Siraj Zubair

Mawanella boasts of the oldest operational Brick Bridge of Sri Lanka.  Though examples of bridges built thousands of years ago still exists, recent history of building bridges in Sri Lanka started during the British Period. The British who developed tea and coffee as the primary plantation industries in the hill country in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) the need for a road network to transport goods was arisen. As a result the British commissioned to build the Colombo – Kandy road in early 1800’s.

The Construction of the road began in 1820 under the orders of the British Governor of Ceylon, Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton. Construction was carried out by Captain William Francis Dawson—who didn’t live to see the completion of the road. Five bridges had to be constructed with the road, one being the Arch Brick Bridge over the Maha Oya in Mawanella. The other other four were the Ferry Bridge over Kelani Ganga,  Arch Brick Bridge over Hingula Oya in Hingula, Pilimathalawa Bridge across Nanu Oya and Satin Bridge over Mahaweli Ganga in Peradeniya.

The satin wood bridge at Peradeniya, which is now no more, was a spectacular and unique one. Built entirely of satin wood except for two stone columns, it spanned a distance of 215 ft across the Peradeniya gorge, over the Mahaweli river. Designed and constructed by Lt. Colonel John Fraser (1790-1863), with technical assistance from Captain Brown, it was not only spectacular but had an innovative, sophisticated structure. The bridge’s ribs were also of 4ft long satin wood. The wood was neatly wedged and jointed. Surprisingly no metal nails or screws had been used for this purpose, only wood.

It was a tall bridge and everyone going from Colombo to Kandy or vice versa had to pay a toll. Thus it was a source of revenue to the colonial government. There is now no trace of this bridge as it was dismantled in 1904.

Of the five bridges, Mawanella Brick Bridge was completed during 1832 – 1833 and is the only bridge still being used for vehicular traffic. This 70 meter long bridge constructed with bricks consisting of 4 arches and has not been repaired since construction.

Primary Source : Heritage of Sabaragamuwa: major natural, cultural, and historic sites
Dr H.A.P. Abhayavardhana

Also See

Map of Mawanella Brick Bridge

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Travel Directions to Mawanella Brick Bridge

Route from Colombo to Mawanella Brick Bridge

Though : Kandy Road
Distance : 92 km
Travel time : 2.5 hours
Driving directions : see on google map

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Posted in Attractions, Bridges