Snippets on the Fort of Galle … and Ashley’s Dire Warnings

A Question from one Sanjay Gunawardena, 12 February 2021:

“Thank you for this great article Dr Roberts.[i] Has anyone got a picture or a painting of the Old Windmill which has been in the Galle Fort. This has been mentioned E.F.C Ludowyk’s book Long Afternoons in Colonial Ceylon. If you can please share an image, it will be much appreciated. Thank you.

A Response from Hemantha Situge: “Lyn Ludo says the windmill was one of the five landmarks that crowned the Fort. It was erected during British times. I have seen two photographs which I have not copied.”[ii]

A Response from Ashley De Vos, 13 February 2021:

“It was a steel windmill installed by the British after the British occupation. It was used to flush the rainwater sewers. I have seen it. The Dutch reared musk rats in the drains. The skins were exported. The British came out of a plague in Britain and being worried of a possible spread of plague wanted to flush the drains. This is why the windmill was installed. I have walked in the drain and photographed it. It is beautifully finished.

[Alas] some of the new residents are breaking into it and letting their night soil into the drain – thereby encouraging obnoxious smells, the breeding of rats and even encouraging diseases. The residents who have done this are totally irresponsible and should have their houses confiscated by the state as they are wilfully creating a possible plague pandemic that will affect all residents.

Traditionally night soil was collected in buckets and cleaned out by hand and later deposited in septic tanks. There is a limit to the amount the soil in the Fort could absorb. This is why from 1975, I have fought for a maximum carrying capacity [of residents] within the fort. The present-days stupid short term, visionless, commerce and greed-driven, gentrification process will destroy all, ….. even the ramparts.”

AN EDITORIAL NOTE, 14 February 2021:

I asked Ashley to write up as hort-note on the concept of “gentrification” which he has deployed. However, it seems that Ashley is knee-deep, metaphorically speaking, in manuscript material within his computer finalizing a book  on the history of the Fort. Knowing him personally, I assure readers  that this will be a magnum opus. Let me add that Ashley is an architect …. a venerable one with a grey beard and decades of work behind him. He has also been President of the Royal Asiatic Society of Sri Lanka.

On this issue he is not a Don Quixote tilting at windmills!

**** ****


Ashley de Vos:  “The Urban Landscape: should we ape the West?”,

Smrti Daniel:

Amplifying Antiquity within the Galle Fort with Imaginative Restoration


Diego Garcia and the Fate of Its Its Indigenized Chagossian People


[i] I think this email note was referring to Michael Roberts, “The Old Lighthouse within the Fort … and More,” 13 February 2021,

[ii] Bunchy has undertaken the task of finding the photographs of th windmill which his late brother Naufel had in his stock.


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