Trincomalee is deep all season natural harbour which was used since the ancient kings thousands of years ago. Known as Gokanna in the ancient times, this harbour was a key strategic location which all the european invaders were keen on taking control. Once the coastal area was captured by the Portuguese in the 17th century, Kandyan kingdom’s access to the sea was primarily through Batticaloa and through Koddiyar Bay inside the Trincomalee bay.
Antonio Bocarro states in 1635, that the objective for building the Trincomalee Fort by the Portuguese was to prevent European enemies from putting up a fort on this side of the island and then contact the king of Kandy and from having communications with him through Kottiyarama (now Somapura Seruvila area).
The first lighthouse in Trincomalee was built on top of the in the year 1845 on the flagstaff post of the old Trincomalee Fort (Fort Frederick) which has been demolished when the Foul Point and The Round Island lighthouse were built.
Joseph Higgs, Master Attendant in Trincomalee states in 1849 ;
I consider Foul Point a much more eligible site for a lighthouse than Flagstaff Point, as a vessel may be running from the S. E. so far in-shore as not to be able to see the light in its present situation, and if the lead be neglected may run ashore. When I was master of H. M. ship “Melville” in 1832, we were becalmed in 11 fathoms water to the S. E. of Foul Point, and had shut in the flag-staff considerably. If Trincomalee becomes a steam port, and a lighthouse be erected on Foul Point, it will be desirable, in order to prevent as much as possible a night’s detention, that a light similar to the one now in use (a single reflector will be sufficient) be fixed on the east point of Elephant Island low down, a given bearing of which light would lead a ship clear of the reef off Foul Point, and up to that island, which is steep too on the S. E. side. Another light of the same description on the extreme of Ostenbeugh Point, or the east point of Small Sober Island, would lead, by a given bearing, clear of Elephant shoal and into the harbour.
I do not know if any application has been made for a lighthouse on Foul Point, but I remember Vice-Admiral Sir John Gore, in 1832, showing me some plans for a lighthouse, and requiring my opinion as to the most eligible site, when I gave my opinion, and for the same reason.
An iron lighthouse will be much less expensive than any other, I imagine, as the materials for building one with stone or bricks would have to be conveyed by water, except lime, which can be burnt on the spot, from coral which abounds there.
Foul Point is the outer south-east point of Trincomalee Bay. The Foul Point Lighthouse (Sampur Lighthouse) was built in 1863 by the British with a height of 32 metres and diameter of 25 metres. The lighthouse is built in to 5 levels with steel stairs and has been guiding seafarers safely to their destinations for centuries..
During the 30 year war with the Tamil Tiger Terrorists in the Northern and Eastern regions of Sri Lanka, these ares were under terrorist control from time to time. This lighthouse was accessible only through the sea during this period and was never used or maintained. However the terrorist organisation along with its leadership was wiped out in 2009 and slowly the life of the villagers were brought back to normalcy with removal of the landmines and such. Although the lighthouse stood, it was riddled with bullet holes due to the frequent battles.
However after a long time standing as witness to the brutality of war, it has been finally repairs and restored to the ancient glory now. The light house is now under the management of the Navy and it is accessible to any person now.
- 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
- Bethune, Q., 1850. Lighthouses : Return to an Address of the Honourable The House of Commons. London, pp.41-42.bl.uk. n.d.
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Map of Sampur Foul Point Lighthouse
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Travel Directions to Sampur Foul Point Lighthouse
|Route from Trincomalee to Sampur Foul Point Lighthouse|
|Through : Kinniya – Mutur|
Distance : 43 km
Travel time : 1 hours
Driving directions : see on google map