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.
According to Knox, he was sent to Lagundeniya after a Dutch invasion of the area where he was living. He explains this as one of the most dismal places he had seen with four to five houses at the top of this mountain.
We all four were brought up together into a Town on the top of a Mountain called Laggendenny. Where I and my dear Friend and fellow Prisoner, and fellow Batchelor Mr. John Loveland lived together in one House. For by this time not many of our People were as we, that is, single men; but seeing so little hopes, despaired of their Liberty, and had taken Wives or Bedfellows.
At our first coming into this Town, we were very much dismayed, it being, one of the most dismal places that I have seen upon that Land. It stands alone upon the top of a Mountain, and no other Town near it, and not above four or five Houses in it. And oftentimes into this Town did the King use to send such Malefactors as he was minded suddenly to cut off. Upon these accounts our being brought to this place could not but scare us, and the more, because it was the King’s special Order and Command to place us in this very Town.An Historical Relation Of The Island Ceylon In The East Indies, by Robert Knox
Robert Knox and three of his fellow prisoners lived in Lagundeniya for 3 years. 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.
In 1908 a plaque had been placed at the place where Knox lived in Lagundeniya although the house no longer exists. The stone plaque reads
J P L
This plaque is located about 12km from Gampola town.
- 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 Lagundeniya 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 Lagundeniya
|Route from Gampola to Robert Knox memorial at Lagundeniya|
|Though : |
Distance : 13.5 km
Travel time : 30 mins
Time to spend : 15 mins
Driving directions : see on google map