Robert Knox was an English sea captain in the service of the British East India Company who was captured by the king Rajasinghe II, the ruler of the Kandyan kingdom in 1659 when their ship had a malfunction and landed in then Ceylon. He along with 15 other sailors were taken as prisoners of Kandyan kingdom and held for 19 years, finally escaping back to England in 1680. However he was not a prisoner in the general sense, where he was given land and houses to live at various places, almost unrestricted mobility within the kingdom and greater respect than the average citizen while being a prisoner of the king.
During the voyage Knox wrote An Historical Relation of the Island Ceylon, an account of his experiences on Ceylon, which was published in 1681. It attracted widespread interest at the time and made Knox internationally famous, influencing Daniel Defoe‘s Robinson Crusoe as well as sparking a friendship with Robert Hooke of the Royal Society. It is one of the earliest and most detailed European accounts of life on Ceylon and is today seen as an invaluable record of the island in the 17th century.
Robert Knox and three of his fellow prisoners lived in Lagundeniya for 3 years. A memorial stand at the place where his house was situated in Lagundeniya.
At this location in Eladatta, you find the second memorial plaque of Robert Knox.During this time he managed hire a man to sneak in to the village which was living previously in guise of a prisoner of this man. Once they arrived at the village he removed the prisoner outfit and declared that the man was sent by the magistrate to assist Knox to collect the debts owed by the villagers to him. Using this money he purchased a land in Eladatta which he built an house and moved. At this location in Eladatta, you find the second memorial plaque of Robert Knox.
After buying the land, he built a house with the support of three fellow prisoners Roger Gold, Ralph Knight, and Stephen Rutland who lived closeby. In 1670, he moved to this new house at Eladatta with the three fellow prisoners who helped build the house.
In about 2 years Roger old and Ralph Knight got married and moved out leaving only Stephen Rutland who was fixated in leaving the island and back to his own country just like Knox. Robert Knox and Stephen lived at this house until 1679, expanding the house, growing fruits, and moving in to animal husbandry as well. But they never moved away from selling merchandise to far a away villagers learning the routes to freedom. In 1679, they left Eladatta House on their final escape through Anuradhapura to Arippu.
In 1908 a plaque installed by J P Lewis had been placed at the place where Knox lived in Eladatta although the house no longer exists. The stone plaque reads
AND WITH THEM
J P L
The plaque lies hidden on a fence of a private land. Although it lies adjoining the road, its hidden with weed and unprotected unlike Lagundeniya.
In addition to above, there a stone tunnel about 190 feet long built under a Kamatha of a paddy field below the road In front of the monument. This tunnel is built completely using blocks of stone tightly fitted to each other with no cement. The top of the tunnel is covered with slabs of rock. According to folklore this has been built by Robert Knox to carry water to the fields. However Robert Knox do not mention anything regarding tunnel in any of his books and possibly a fable developed over time.
Still it is a marvel which has survived for hundreds of years and still carrying a water stream to the paddyfields as intended when constructed and worth making a effort to find and visit it.
- Knox, R., 1681. An historical relation of the island Ceylon, in the East – together with an account of the detaining in captivity the author … and of the author’s miraculous escape. Illustrated with figures and a map of the island. 1st ed. London: Richard Cbifwell.
- Karunarathne, D., 2007. රොබට් නොක්ස්ගේ එදා හෙළදිව. 1st ed. Colombo: M. D. Gunasena.
Map of Robert Knox memorial at Gampola Eladatta and Other Places of Interest
The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites
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Driving Directions to Robert Knox memorial at Gampola Eladatta
|Route from Kandy to Robert Knox memorial at Gampola Eladatta|
|Though : Daulugala|
Distance : 15 km
Travel time : 30 mins
Time to spend : 15-45 mins
Driving directions : see on google map