Richmond Castle – A Landmark of Kalutara – කලුතර රිච්මන්ඩ් වලව්ව
Richmond Castle, built at the turn of the century in Kalutara, is considered one of the most spectacular architectural works of the period. It was the property of a wealthy landowner turned philanthropist, Padikara Mudali Nanayakkara Rajawasala Appuhamilage Don Arthur de Silva Wijesinghe Siriwardena. The mansion stands majestically at top of a hill, on a 42 acre estate beside the Kalutara-Palatota Road. Once a circuit bungalow for high ranking officers of the British administrative service, today it is a popular tourist attraction, and serves as an educational centre for less privileged children of Kalutara and the vicinity.
It is said that ‘Governor George Anderson was requested by the royal family of England to appoint a battalion of 40 soldiers to guard the castle and its occupants. Padikara Mudali, as he was known, had a 12-strong staff known as mudaliyars.
Richmond Castle is a two-storeyed building with 99 doors and 34 windows, decorated with glass panes of exquisite design depicting grape vines. Records indicate that two shiploads of teak were imported from Burma for its construction.
The entire building is characterised by intricate carvings. The timber remains as fresh as at the time of construction. A dancing hall with a stage is another of its features. The architecture shows greater similarity to an English mansion than to an ancient walauwwa.
The gardens which once boasted a profusion of flowers have now given way to trees like coconut, mangosteen, veralu, guava, mango, rambutan and various citrus fruits. The mudaliyar was a lover of nature, and adorned his garden with marble statues, some of which still stand. However he was not happy in marriage, for he was childless. Having ended his marriage, he bequeathed his properties to the Public Trustee for the welfare of the children of the country. He took up residence in a quiet room at the Queen’s Hotel, Kandy , where he breathed his last in 1947.
Map of Richmond Castle of Kalutara
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Travel Directions to Richmond Castle of Kalutara
Route from Colombo to Richmond Castle
Route from Galewela to Richmond Castle
|Through : Moratuwa – Panadura
Distance : 45 km
Travel time : 2 hours.
Driving directions : see on google map
Distance : 3 km
Travel time : 10 minutes.
Driving directions : see on google map
Richmond Castle – A Day Care Centre Today
Richmond Castle, once a plush mansion surrounded by a beautiful flower garden owned by one of the richest persons in the Kalutara district has been converted into a day care centre.
This mansion of historic value is over 100 years old and one of the few largest remaining mansions in the country, apart from the Maduwanwela Disawe’s Walawwa in the Ratnapura district.
The mansion on 42 acres of land is close to the Kalu Ganga. One has to travel nearly 47-kilometres from Colombo to reach this castle, which is at Palathota along the Tudugala road. The flamboyant Castle depicts a delightful legacy of a bygone era of the British Colonial period. It was entrusted to the Public Trustee of Sri Lanka in 1947 by its proprietor Mudliyar Padikara Mudalindu Nanayakkara Rajawasala Appuhamilage Don Arthur de Silva Wijayasinghe Siriwardena. The interior of this mansion has been designed like a winter house in a Western country.Mudliyar Siriwardena had built the castle to resemble a Palace in India, belonging to a Maharajah at that time. The mansion is complete with a stable, servants’ quarters, guard rooms, dancing floor and all requirements for a luxury life.
The mansion has a splendid dancing floor, which has a natural air conditioning system. According to the caretaker, this is a unique system. Under this system air is being pumped to the dancing floor straight from the Kalu Ganga through underground tubes. It also has a good sewerage system.
Burma Teak pillars, Italian and Scotland glass windows and mirrors and shiploads of timber from England were imported to build this magnificient edifice. Kandyan era wood carvings on pillars especially in the dancing floor depict the combination of Eastern and Western cultures at this beautiful palace.
Richmond Castle has 99 door frames, 38 windows and one roof covering the entire mansion.It is said that Mudliyar Siriwardena maintained this place as a flower garden,which was known as Richmond Park Estate.
Anyone visiting the castle could also see their personal collection of old photographs taken by Plate which are over 100 years old. Mudliyar Siriwardena, the chief Mudliyar of the Kalutara district was in charge of 12 villages. He had 40 guards to protect him.
Richmond Castle – The Mudaliyar of Richmond Castle
Courtesy Public Trustee – Weerasinghe Chief Accountant (Trustee Office)
M. Ariyadasa O.I.C. of the Richmond Castle
It was in the year 1910. Large crowds rushed to the roads leading to the “Richmond Castle” from the early hours to witness an unforgettable event that was to remain in their minds for years to come … The Streets were gaily decorated with pandals. The drinks and sweetmeat were served under a canopy of “rally palam”, to the waiting crowd to quench their thirst under a bright sun. A light breeze from the Kaluganga soothed their weary hearts from time to time……. it was the arrival of a bride and a groom whose fame and name were much respected by the residents of Palatota in Kalutara South.
The groom Padikara Muhandiram Arthur Silva Wijeyasinghe Siriwardena was held in high esteem for his position similar to that of a government agent, who had twelve Mudliyars serving under him at the time with forty sentinels in attendance. He was the son of Paulis Silva a renter from Galle better known as the “plumbago king” and his mother was Isebella de Silva from Baddegama who moved to Colpetty, where they built a mansion ” Isabella court” at Colpetty junction , where the present sales room for carnival ice cream and the National Savings Bank stand.
Arthur being the youngest of their two sons was eager to pursue his studies after his primary education at a Colombo school and hence he was sent abroad for higher education. Padikara Muhandiram was an honour bestowed to him by the British government for his immeasurable services to his community. Besides his services were internationally acclaimed. He was an unsung hero as he played a major role in securing independence for India and in turn for Sri Lanka.
The bride Clarice Maud Sooriya Bandara was the daughter of an eminent lawyer whose three beautiful daughters who is said to have married three famous men whose surname ended with the word �Singha� much to the pride of their father who is said to have claimed that the three of them were given away to lions.
The bridal couple were drawn in a carriage drawn by four white horses (A privilege given to only one other Sri Lankan, the other being Sir Solomon Dias Bandaranaike of Horogolla Walawa)
As the bride stepped out of the carriage royal guests the Prince and Princess of Wales waited to greet them. The princess is said to have hugged this fairy queen like bride, with much sentiment as an admiring prince stood silently unable to believe that such beauties existed in Sri Lanka. The Maharajah of Raman whose castle inspired the building of “Richmond castle” was also their to share the happy event.
Richmond castle stands on a mountain top overlooking the beautiful Kaluganga to the west and Geekiyange Kanda to the east. The entire building stands on one acre of land. The estate covers forty two acres of rich arable land., on which grew 60 varieties of fruit trees at one time. The Mudaliyar is said to have maintained a museum on one side of this massive house entrance to which was free of charge for the benefit of his village people.
The entire house is said to have had 99 door frames made of teak from Burma with a double winged stair way these are some of the remnants that speak its past glory.
The floor is of teak. A ventilator system on the floor boards catch the breezes of the Kaluganga which filter directly to the hall. The small balcony , a projection from the upper floor is a device for the location of the orchestra. The dining hall opens out to a corridor that has coloured floor tiles from Italy and then to a closed meda midula of which the remnants of a porcelain bird bath ,and a fountain could be found even up to now.
The master bed room
The master bed room upstairs had a special sound proofing device.
A cross section of the wall in the photograph gives a clear view of a cross section where the plaster encloses a rib cage made out of wooden strips. This device had been copied from the cold countries, the mudliyar had visited. The entire room sans furniture still boasts of an intricately carved cage where a mosquito net was held in place. Attached baths with two approach doors from inside the bed room and outside were special features of this bed room.
These had tinted glass with designs done in Italy the corridor upstairs opening into a broad balcony which gives a kaleidoscopic view of the front garden.
A special staircase for the domestic staff is seen at the back of the house leading to the kitchen and the servants quarters.
The mudaliyar besides his yeoman services to his people is also said to have done much for his religion.
A staunch Roman Catholic he is said to have been a close associate of the Pope. He is also said to have donated large sums of money for the development of Lady Ridgeway hospital and also donated an estate of 81 acres known as “Ira Handa Yawa estate” for the benefit of destitute children.
The Mudaliyar was the recipients of many honours bestowed on him by the United States, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal. He was the Papal knight of for the east of the Roman catholic church, loved and adored by all who knew him.
Given below are some of his honours granted him in appreciation of his services to the people religion and country.
- Knight of the grand cross of the order of Holy sepulchre.
- Knight grand of the order of St: Silvester.
- Knight grand office of the crown of Italy.
- Knight commander of the order of Leopold 2nd
- Knight Commander of the order of black eagle.
- President Association Ceylon Chiefs 1921-1928
- Gold cross of merits of the society of arts science and letters of France.
- Member of the pontifical Academy of Rome.
- Fellow of the royal society of Art Great Britain.
He donated his castle to the destitute
- Educate poor children with foreign languages
- To impart technical education.
- To give shelter to destitute children in the form of a pre school.
- To open children’s parks for use of tiny tots
The beautiful castle with all its pomp and glory was said to be at one time the abode of foreign soldiers after this presentation, and had been led to rough use by them. According to M. Ariyadasa the O.I.C. of this building there had been a court case pending for several years which paved the way for vandalism theft for several years. The valuables such as tiles from India Statues from Italy and flower pots are said to have been robbed or damaged by treasure hunters and vandals, but the beauty of the castle cannot be erased easily as it remains a monument to the and a tribute to one of the great Philanthropists who ever lived in our country.
After the donation the Mudliyar is said to have lived in a room of a leading hotel in Kandy for nearly six years till he passed away after an attack of Thrombosis in 1947.