The First Lighthouse of Colombo (කොලඹ මුල්ම ප්‍රදීපාගාරය)

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Photograph by Frederick Fiebig from an album of 70 handcoloured salt prints, of the lighthouse at Colombo in Sri Lanka.
Photograph by Frederick Fiebig from an album of 70 hand coloured salt prints, of the lighthouse at Colombo in Sri Lanka. This handsome neo-classical building served as Colombo’s lighthouse until a beacon was added to the Chatham Street Clocktower in 1867. (Ceylon)
source: The British Library Board (www.bl.uk)

This is the first lighthouse built in Colombo. However, this lighthouse is not in any lighthouse database and any reference is scarcely found on older documents and publications. The above picture of this lighthouse was found in the British online library and is one of the two pictures available of this lighthouse (see reference section for the link for the photo in the British online library). See below for the other photo.

The exact location where the lighthouse stood on the historic fort of Colombo (which is also demolished – see here) is not known but the probable location is marked in the Google map below.

This lighthouse was used to mark the Colombo Port at night with one fixed light. From base to top of crown its height was 74 feet (22.5 meters) and the centre of light was located 97 feet above sea level. The diameter of the lower rooms was 21 feet 6 inches (6.5 meters) and the light room was 11 feet (6.4 meters). The light could be seen for 16 miles.

The lighthouse was built on a wooden structure surrounding a 2 story-high brick building on the flagstaff bastion of the Colombo Fort. The Bastian was located almost 120 yards (110 meters) away from the sea and was 12 yards (10.9 meters) above the sea level. It was built in 1826 and the light tower was put up in 1829. It had been repaired in 1844 and painted and coloured in 1849.

It was equipped with copper parabolic reflectors and used argand lamps, with perpendicular racks and screws to raise the wicks. The focal distance of the reflectors was 3⅜ inches, the diameter of the reflectors, was 21 inches and the depth, was 8¾ inches. Eleven lamps in three tiers were placed to provide the illumination. The lamps were lit using coconut oil sourced locally.

The lighthouse operated till 1867 until a light was added to the then-new clock tower on the junction of Chatham Street and Janadhipathi Mawatha (formally Queens Road) in Colombo Fort. This lighthouse was demolished with the removal of the Fort ramparts between 1869 and 1871.

A photograph of Mressrs. Slinn and Co, of Colombo of a view of the old lighthouse, battery, and flagstaff which mark the approach to Colombo from sea.
A photograph of Mressrs. Slinn and Co, of Colombo of a view of the old lighthouse, battery, and flagstaff which mark the approach to Colombo from the sea.
source: The Illustrated London News, n.d. The lighthouse at Colombo, Ceylon

References

  1. The Illustrated London News, n.d. The lighthouse at Colombo, Ceylon. XLV(July to December 1864), pp.280,285.
  2. Bethune, Q., 1850. Lighthouses : Return to an Address of the Honourable The House of Commons. London, pp.41-42.bl.uk. n.d.
  3. Lighthouse, Colombo.. [online] Available at: <http://www.bl.uk/ onlinegallery/ onlineex/ apac/ photocoll/l/ 019pho000000249u00012000.html> [Accessed 1 June 2022].

Also See

Map of  The First Lighthouse of Colombo

Please click on the button below to load the Dynamic Google Map (ගූගල් සිතියම් පහලින්)
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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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