Negombo Fort – මීගමුව බලකොටුව

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Negombo Fort  - මීගමුව බලකොටුව
Negombo Fort – මීගමුව බලකොටුව

Negombo was a trading town of the Portuguese and the Negombo Fort was initially built as a trading post and with fortifications. The origin of he fort is unknown but Atononio Bocarro, the Chronicler of the State (Portuguese) has published a map of the fort area in 1635. (see photos below). Therefore this fort would have been built before 1635.

The Portuguese Fort that stood where the current Negombo Fort is situated was mostly destroyed by cannon during the Dutch siege in 1644. The Dutch fort was built on its ruins, not on the usual square pattern, but on a pentagonal one, though it had only four bulwarks. The fifth one was never built. The entrance to the fort indicates the year 1678 which is probably to the year the Dutch Fort came in to operation.

Negombo is home to the largest community of Catholics in Sri Lanka, a legacy of the Portuguese, who industriously spread Catholicism all along the west coast. Portuguese surnames abound here, though the people do not descend from the Portuguese. Their ancestors adopted a Portuguese name when they had been baptised. In the Dutch time Negombo was important because the highest quality cinnamon grew in this area, but with the disappearance of the cinnamon trade it lost its importance.

Negombo itself is an ugly town. Beauty is to be found on the beaches and around the lagoons, where colourful fishing boats lie on blue water against a backdrop of palm trees and blue sky.

The fort was located on a narrow strip of land between a lagoon and an inlet of the sea. It was surrounded by moats, and the gate was accessed via a drawbridge. Facing it on the landside was a town with the familiar rectangular pattern of streets which was itself protected by earth walls. The area to the west was regularly flooded by the sea, changing the land on which the fort stood into a peninsula. Governor Rumpf described the fort as a ‘fine defensible structure’ when he visited it in 1720, but the painter Heydt, who painted it in 1744, was less enthusiastic and felt that it could have been built ‘somewhat more durably’.

Governor Rumpf visited the Negombo Fort to view the improvements that had been recently made to it. The walls had been topped up, new watch towers had been built on the bastions, a big bell tower had been built above the gate, and a wooden palisade had been put up. The Fort in its new splendour is shown in this water colour from 1720.

Today only ruins are left. The Fort was demolished in the late nineteenth century by the British, who used its stones to build a prison. The main remnant is an ambivalent mound and part of the eastern wall with the main gate that gives entrance to a tunnel that opens into what was once the courtyard. A clock tower behind it has been added at Queen Victoria’s Jubilee.

Nearby on the beach is the fishing market of Negombo. The fish is brought ashore here and sold immediately while the sun beats down. Low coloured boats and fishing nets lie on the beach. Dirty crows and seagulls are everywhere. The old women who sell the fish are very poor and have very black skins.

Along the beach are some decrepit buildings and a field where kids play cricket. To the tourists who come to the beaches of Negombo the market is promoted as being picturesque but it’s a scene of poverty and not pretty at all.

In the town one can see some of the canals the Dutch have built in the country to facilitate transport. They are still being used by the local people.

A map of the Negombo Fort area from the 1636 publication Description of CEYLON - in the Book of the Plans of all the Fortresses Cities and towns of the State of Oriental India by ANTONIO BOCARRO translated to English by Tikiri Bandara Herath Abeyasinghe
A map of the Negombo Fort area from the 1636 publication Description of CEYLON – in the Book of the Plans of all the Fortresses Cities and towns of the State of Oriental India by ANTONIO BOCARRO translated to English by Tikiri Bandara Herath Abeyasinghe
A map of Negombo fort drawn by the portuguese in 1650
A map of Negombo Fort drawn by the portuguese
source : Plantas das fortalezas, pagodes & ca. da ilha de Ceilão published in 1650
A map of Negombo fort drawn by the portuguese  in 1650
A map of Negombo fort drawn by the portuguese
source : Plantas das fortalezas, pagodes & ca. da ilha de Ceilão published in 1650
Antique print of the Batticaloa Fort, Sri Lanka by Baldaeus, printed in 1672 for the Dutch first edition of Baldaeus' work 'A true and exact description of the most celebrated East-India coasts of Malabar and Coromandel and also of the Isle of Ceylon' published in Amsterdam, 1672 by Janssonius van Waasberge en van Someren
Antique print of the Batticaloa Fort, Sri Lanka by Baldaeus, printed in 1672 for the Dutch first edition of Baldaeus’ work ‘A true and exact description of the most celebrated East-India coasts of Malabar and Coromandel and also of the Isle of Ceylon’ published in Amsterdam, 1672 by Janssonius van Waasberge en van Someren
A map of Negombo fort drawn by the Dutch after repairs (year 1720)
A map of Negombo fort drawn by the Dutch after repairs (year 1720)
source : Dutch National Archives under public domain

References

  • Abeyasinghe, T. B. H. , 1995, Description of Ceylon in the in the Book of the Plans of all the Fortresses Cities and towns of the State of Oriental India by ATNONIO BOCARRO Dedicated to the Most Serene Royal Majesty Philip IV of the Spains and III of Portugal our Lord the King February 17, 1635. . Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka , new series. 1995. Vol. 39
  • Baldaeus, P., 1672. ‘A true and exact description of the most celebrated East-India coasts of Malabar and Coromandel and also of the Isle of Ceylon. 1st ed. Amsterdam: Janssonius van Waasberge en van Someren.

Also See

Map of  Negombo Dutch Fort

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Driving Directions to Negombo Dutch Fort

Route from Colombo

Route from Peliyagoda – Puttalam road – Maris Stella College junction

distance :40 km
Travel time : 1 hour
Driving directions : see on google map
distance : 2.1 km
Travel time : 5-10 mins
Driving directions : see on google map

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