Mansions of Kollupitiya, Colombo in the early twentieth century

Unknown author, unknown date, ………. a composition entitled “Homes of Kollupitiya”

Alfred House: Charles Henry de Soysa built on the land where Bagatalle was, an  enormous mansion named “Alfred House” when the privilege of feastingthe future King of England, the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Alfred when he visited the Island in 1870.
Arncliff: House of Archdeacon Boyd at Boyd Place Kollupitiya. Now a part of Bishops’ College.
Big Bagatelle: Charles Henry de Soysa, the only son of Jenuis de Soysa Dissanayake, Mudaliyar of the Governors Gate was a public man of the first degree, in that he was one who devoted his energy and wealth on the people. He purchased numerous properties in Colombo for business investment and residential purposes retaining his roots in Moratuwa and Panadura.  Among them were C.E. Layards’ “Bagatalle” in Kollupitiya. This house was one of the earliest residences built in Kollupitiya in 1840’s. Mr. C. E. Layard (1784 -1864), son of Rev. Charles Peter Layard, the Dean of Bristol, held varied administrative posts in the Ceylon Civil Service posts in the Ceylon Civil Service over a period of 35 years. After his death in 1864, the house and property passed on to C. H. de Soysa. The land owned by Layard was almost 400 acres in extent and the garden surrounding the bungalow was quite large and extended up to the present Galle Road .Broomhill: Home of R. L. de Fonseka Peiris at Green Path, Kollupitiya.
 Calverly House verandah in its heyday –courtesy of Rohan De Soysa

Calverly: Home of Advocate Frederick Dornhost at Turret Road, built in 1867. Now Buddhist Ladies’ College established by Mohandas de Mel.
Carlton Lodge: The home of Carlton Corea was constructed on the grounds of Turret House at Turret Road. It was once occupied by the Burmese Ambassador
in Ceylon, H. E. Boon watt. His wife was shot and killed in this house by the Ambassador over a clandestine affair she had. It is now the home of the Capri Club.
Canela Villa: : Home of Alistair Ferguson, former proprietor of the Ceylon Observer Newspaper and founder of Ferguson Ceylon Directory. It was a spacious single storeyed house at Turret Road with extensive grounds. Later
known as “Savitri” and was the home of C. E. A. Dias a prominent
Clare: The house in Flower Road in which Earnest de Silva lived and which was named after his old college at Cambridge , is now the Russian Embassy.
College House: Home of A.J.R. de Soysa at Thurstan Road formerly known as “Regina Walauwa”. Now part of the Colombo University.
Ebor House: House of Archdeacon Mathew at Green Path.
Elscourt Manor: ‘Elscourt Manor’, down Turret Road, owned by Henry A Peiris, landed proprietor, was the home of the Orient Club. The club was subsequently moved to its present location at Racecourse Avenue. The Manor was also a recreation center for service personnel during WWII. Elscourt was demolished in the 1950’s. Two eminent surgeons, Dr P R Anthonisz and Dr M V P Peiris, built their homes on the grounds of this property. On March 24, 1965, the leader of the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Kadchi, S J V Chelvanayakam and Dudley Senanayake, the leader of the United National Party, met, together with their party delegates, S M Rasamanickam, A Amirthalingham, Dr E M V Naganathan, V Navaratnam and
M Tiruchelvam (ITAK), at the house of the UNP stalwart, Dr M V P Peiris down Turret Road, Colombo. Dudley Senanayake, the leader of the party, along with J R Jayewardene, V A Sugathadasa and Esmond Wickremasinhe, represented the United National Party. In 1929 Elscourt, a magnificent building on turret Road opposite the Victoria Park, one time The Colombo Club, was gifted to the Bishops College, Colombo, a leading girls school, by Mrs. Charles Peiris (nee Maud de Mel).By 1936 there were 153 pupils and the buildings needed expansion. Elscourt was the site of World Fair I organized in 1937 by the past pupils of Bishop’s College. Elscourt was sold and the fundsraised from the sale of Elscourt were now available for the purchasein June 1937 of Arncliffe, a large house adjoining Bishop’s College.In August 1937 Arncliffe was renamed Peiris House in tribute to the generous benefactress, Mrs. Maud Peiris. And Peiris House was declared open by the Governor Sir Andrew Caldecott.
Fairlight: The single storeyed home of lawyer Felix de Silva at Turret Road , Kollupitiya.Fincastle: House of Henry A Peiris Landed Proprietor, at Turret Road. A palatial building, original owned by Jeronis Pieris. Fincastle was later theoffice of the Lady Lochore fund. Residence and Stores of H. Bastian Fernando Plumbgo Merchant at Green Path, Kollupitiya. Later occupied by the Italian Chancery.
Firdousi: Home of Dr. Rustemjee at Turret Road . During the Second world War the Science Laboratory of Royal College was here. Later this house was
brought by Mr. Eric Soysa.
Framjee House: This old house at Station Road Kollupitiya is now part of Methodist College
Gitanjali: Home of Deva Surasena, son of James Pieris built on “Rippleworth Grounds” in 1948 at Alwis Place.
Glen Abar; The house occupied by A. J. R. de Soysa before “Lakshmigiri” wasbuilt, is now the area covered by Glenaber Place , Thurstan Road .
Icicle Hall: Once the residence of the Chief Justice. Later UNP Headquarters “Sri Kotha” at Galle Road Kollupitiya.
Isabel Court: House of N. D. P. Silva, plumbago Merchant. Earlier known as “Wiesbaden” on Galle Road, Kollupitiya Junction. The oldest Chinese
Restaurant in Kollupitiya. “Lotus” operated from here for a long time. The building is now demolished.

Kew Lodge: House of Archdeacon Mathew at Green Path.
Lakshmi Giri: The elaborately ornamented bungalow of A. J. R. de Soysa at Thurstan Road .
Muirburn: Naina-Marikar was resident at No 43, New Moor Street, Colombo, and in 1900 he purchased a palatial bungalow, that contained a large garden,
at Turret Road called “Muirburn”. Within this compound he built another shop called Victoria Drapery Stores. He also worked as an indenting agent and imported large stocks of goods from Europe to be disposed of wholesale to other big merchants in Ceylon. He sold on credit and his stock in trade was valued at several hundreds of
thousand Rupees. Naina-Marikar made a donation towards the construction of the Wesley College building at baseline Road, Colombo
Mumtaz Mahal: Previous 0fficial residence of the Speaker of Parliament at Galle Road Kolupitiya. Was owned by M A M Hussein.
Newlands: Home of Arthur Alwis over hundred years ago. Alwis Place was named after Arthur Alwis, a well known resident of Kollupitiya. Newlands extended from Turret Road to Powatte area. Arthur Alwis was a member for the Kollupitiya Ward in the Colombo Muncipal Council.
Notherton: The home of Charles Mathew Fernando eminent lawyer, who led the prosecution in the famous Attygalle murder case. This house was
guarded during that time. The house was situated opposite the Fountain House Turret Road/Union Place corner. Queens Road: The house bordering Queens Road on Thurstan Road was owned by T.H.A. de Soysa and named ” Regina” (now College House”). Thename Regina (meaning Queen) and the British happily named the
adjoining road as Queens Road.
Rheinland: Edwin Lionel Frederick de Soysa’s House and Stables at Kollupitiya built in 1905. Earlier occupied by a German businessman.
Rippleworth: Homes of Sir James Peiris, the legislator and pioneer social reformist, built in 1901 at Turret Road . It was the scene of many
conferences when the reform movement was at its height during Colonial days. After the death of Sir James in 1930,his son Leonard lived in
this house till death. Devar Suriya Sena the younger son lived in a separate house adjoining .
Roshanara: Home of N. K. Chosky leading Civil Lawyer of the time at Turret Road .
Rotunda: Home of Canon Dias Bandaranaike of Rotunda Gardens, Kollupitiya.
Sigiriya: The home of Dr.Solomon Fernando a highly respected medical
practitioner, at Bagatelle Road , Kollupitiya.
Sravasti: The Colombo residence of W. A. de Silva, one of the most elegant and largest residences of Ceylon. Wilmot Arthur de Silva was a widely
known man of scholarly pursuits and philanthropic inclination. Sravasti, the mansion built on the lines of a Tuscany Villa and
completed in 1913, was Dr. Silva’s gift to posterity. A freedom fighter of the day, it was here that he entertained such men of
history as Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore and Lord Donougmore. Today it serves as a hostel for Members of Parliament. It
is situated at Edinburgh Crescent .
Srimethipaya: Sir Earnest de Silva’s Colombo Residence. The quiet philanthropist built this house around 1910 at Flower Road and the road is now
happily named Sir Earnest. The house is now the office of the Prime Minister.

St. Kevins: Home of Mudliyar S.R. de Fonseka, a highly respected government
official at Kollupitiya.

St. Leonards:Sir James Pieris owned this house which was previously occupied by District Judge G. S. Schneider at Flower Road .
St Thomas Prep School: The junior wing of St. Thomas’ College, Mt Lavinia is located here and it is on this area that the offices of the Voice of America oncestood. Galle Mahal: the oldest house on Galle Road, built sometime in the 1850’s, is situated next door. The school was founded on May 17, 1938, by the Rev William Thomas Keble, an eminent educationist, scholar, author, and a great lover of Ceylon. The school is an Anglican private fee levying educational institution and one of the foremost in the island. It is located in pleasant healthy surroundings at a former spacious seaside residence named ‘Fortrose’, opposite the Bishops House. Fortrose was once occupied by George Vanderspaar. Many elegant coconut trees and a sprawling Kottan (Almond) tree line its front facing the Galle Road.
Sudasana: At the intersection with General’ Lake Road which bisected Turret Road was the house of Sir Gerard Wijekoon. First President of the Senate.
The Firs: St, Bridgets Convent Girls School was first initiated by Reverend Dr. T. A. Melizan (the then Archbishop of Colombo), within a rented house down Turret Road known as ‘The Firs’. This was the beginning of the majestic school that stands today, bringing back happy memories to all those who mingled amidst its walls. Bought over from the late Mr. Harry Pieris the ‘spacious’ and ‘sprawling’ bungalow was considered the ideal home. ‘The Firs’ had a long verandah, which served as the school hall and each of the larger room was converted as classroom. In a room on the east was situated the Chapel, which is said to have had a resplendent altar, illuminated by candles.

Visakha Vidyalaya, one of the premier Buddhist girls school in Colombo, was started under the name of “Buddhist Girls’ College” in a house called “The Firs” at Turret Road, Colombo, Sri Lanka. It was moved to its present premises at Vajira Road, Bambalapitiya (Colombo 4) on the 21st of November 1927 and named “Visakha Vidyalaya” by Lady Herbert Stanley, the wife of the then Governor of Ceylon. From humblebeginnings, Visakha Vidyalaya has risen to the position of the most sought after school for girls in Sri Lanka. Furthermore, it is the only girls’ school identified amongst the first National Schools in the Island. Home of Henry A Pieris gifted to St. Bridgets Convent.
The Synagogue: The house occupied for many years by Peter de Saram, a Retired Korale Mudaliyar at Galle Road (Sea-Side) Kollupitiya.
The Tent: Owned by Henry A. Pieris. A single storey house with a large garden at Green Path. Now the hostel of the Girl’s Friendly Society.
Turret House: Built by the well known Company Director, F. W. Bois at Turret Road . Later, the town residence of Col. T. G. Jayawardene. His sons-in-law
Carlton Corea and Fairlie Wijemanne built their houses on the grounds of Turret House. During the second World War, ‘Turret House’ on Turret Road was the
home of the Upper School of Royal College, Colombo, and Carlton Lodge (the Capri Club) housed the Lower School. The office of the Principal and the administration section were housed at Sudassana, the home of Sir Gerard Wijekoon, which was located on the opposite side of Turret Road. The science laboratory was located at Firdousi, also on the same (left) side of the street facing East. School assembly was held in the open air on the spacious grounds of Turret House.
Vaijayantha: Home of E. W. Jayawardene Q. C. Later occupied by the Chinese Ambassador. During the second world War was the headquarters of Radio
SEAC. This house was situated on Park Road leading from Turret Road towards Slave Island .
Villa Istanbul Residence of Macan Markar on Galle Road , Kollupittiya.
Villa Venezia: Sir Marcus Fernando built this house like a Venetian ‘palazze’ in Queens Road and resided for sometime. Now demolished.
Vimal Villa: Residence of D. D. Pedris at Alfred Place , a popular place businessman and keen Buddhist.
Kollupitiya Mini Zoo – A mini zoo had been in operation at “IXORA” Green Path, now the residence of the Wijewardenes. This was earlier
owned by Hagen Bech who was the originator of the Dehiwela Zoo. The animals were later transferred to Dehiwela.
Residence of the Indian High Commissioner – A splendid mansion located at Thurstan Road which had a mini zoo (deer park ) within its
compounds. The place was previously occupied by the Manager, Imperial Bank of India and owned by T H A de Soysa. The rear garden extended
all the way up to Bagatelle Road on the west.

Kollupitiya Stables: Clifford Road housed the stables and horse
riding school. Many prominent personalities, including the first post
independent Prime Minister, the Hon D S Senanayake, were trained by
Dick Wijesinghe, the famous trainer and jockey who lived down Hudson
Road , at these stables. The first floor of St Michaels building was
also occupied by several jockeys of that era.

Mehdi Hussein, the well known horse trainer, who trained some of the
best horses in Ceylon, viz Kunjilata, Mohan Tara, & Cotton Hall, also
had his stables at the far end of Alwis Place.

US Chancery – The old US Embassy building at Galle Face, occupied by
the offices of USAID now, was the residence of D R Wijewardene, the
founder of Lake House newspapers. It was then called ‘Rickman House’.
After him, it was remodeled and renamed to ‘Sri Ramya’. The famous
Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, stayed in this house when he brought
a troupe of Bengali dancers to Ceylon in the 1920’s.

Mati Park – The present day Stanley Jansz Stadium, by the Beira Lake ,
was then called ‘ Mati Park ‘ meaning ‘Clay Park’, on account of its
clay soil. It was then owned by a hairy man called ‘Mail Bass’ meaning
‘Hairy’. This man used to cut grass and sell it for a living. The
grounds were also used for horse riding.

Bird Hunter – In the vicinity of Mati Park was the Beira Lake. On the
island in the middle of this lake a man named Dias aka ‘Masappu Aiya’,
who was an avid bird hunter lived there.


Those who were intrigued by the information in this collection may also be interested in

* Benita Stambler: Free Full Text E-books on British Ceylon, at

*Ismeth Raheem and Percy Colin-Thome: Images of British Ceylon, Singapore, Times Editions, 2000

* Michael Roberts: “Engeltine Cottage in Kandy: The Intertwining of Three Families ……” 4 April 2012,

* Michael Roberts: Potency, Power  & People in Groups, Colombo, Marga, 2012, ISBN 978-955-582-129-2

New cover Potency-SG29042011 


Preamble: Accumulating Knowledge, Photographs and Power 1-5

Political Context 6-16

Things Archaic 17-18

Potency & Powers from Beyond 19-22

People in Groups 23-94

Buddhist Revitalisation and Sinhalese Nativism 95-100

Towards the Present: From Politics to Paradoxes in the Cricket Arena 101-110

Endnotes 111-120

Bibliography 121-126


Filed under life stories, propaganda, sri lankan society, unusual people, welfare & philanthophy, world events & processes

13 responses to “Mansions of Kollupitiya, Colombo in the early twentieth century

  1. Rohana Jayaratne

    Very interesting and valuable research. Much appreciated. this work should be published as a book with more detailed history and pictures.

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  4. I’m looking for some old photographs for my grand fathers house on Turret Road (now Dharamapala Mawatha) Colombo. It was call Savithri & the story line is below as mentioned above “Canela Villa: : Home of Alistair Ferguson, former proprietor of the Ceylon Observer Newspaper and founder of Ferguson Ceylon Directory. It was a spacious single storied house at Turret Road with extensive grounds. Later
    known as “Savitri” and was the home of C. E. A. Dias a prominent

    • I will send your inquiry and email address to ISMETH RAHEEM and ROHAN DE SOYSA who may be able to guide you. You may find background info in my book Caste Conflict and Elite Formation: The Rise of a Karava Elite in Sri Lanka, 1500-1931, Cambridge University Press, 1982 and in Roberts et al, People Inbetween, Colombo, Sarvodaya, 1989 –especially in some of the Appendices.

  5. Jeanne Withanage

    This undated article states that The Tent is “Now the hostel of the Girls Friendly Society”. The “now” gives the impression that our present hostel was formerly The Tent and we have had many inquiries regarding this. We would like to make it known that this is incorrect. The present hostel was built in 1957 by the GFS on the land purchased by the Society in 1918. However, in 1906 the Tent was used by the Society for a few years to conduct classes and training programmes – GFS Sri Lanka

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  9. Fabian D. K. Schokman

    I am looking for information on Alfred House and what became of it. I read somewhere that a portion of the Old mansion survives under the same name of Alfred House.

    Also to add a small correction, Prince Alfred never inherited the throne. The heir apparent and eldest son of Victoria and Albert was Edward VII. Alfred succeeded to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. During his time in Sri Lanka he was Duke of Edinburg.

  10. GFS

    Re the info relating to the hostel of the Girls’ Friendly Society – it is indeed a single storey house in a large garden, but please note that from 1957, the GFS hostel has been located behind the GFS Hall at 58, Green Path, Colombo 3. The premises belong to the GFS.

  11. Chanaka Senanayake.

    It twas the halcyon mid 60’s and I was on my way to school along Turret Road. I vividly remember residences of Shirley Boonwath, Wijemannes. I was focusing my longing eyes on a mansion few folks today would remember. A few houses past Boonwath & Wijemannes, and on the same side of the road a two storied mansion of an unique architectural pattern with wooden turrets .

    That was exactly at the junction of Turret Road and ,Flower Road. Right opposite this mansion, at Turret~ General’s Lake Road, stood the residence of Wijekoons. Now the bearing are established. At present a new building stands there and part of the garden seems to have been acquired for road widening..

    Could some kind soul enlighten me on this ?

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