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Closenberg

 

Closenberg was very dear to us when we played on the beach as kids. It was destroyed and oil storage tanks placed on the loveliest and safest beach in the south and such an act of eco vandalism was committed when it was closed.

 

Closenberg was originally a Dutch fortification. It was bought by an English Merchant Marine who was with the East India Company (EIC) and his Arms lie over the door or so it is thought. They show the suns rays. However, they may be that of the EIC itself. I wonder whether the merchant knew my ancestor who took the first Anglican missionaries in his ship to Baddegama nearby where the first Anglican Church was built. He was the Sugar pioneer, George Winter, a merchant marine also with the EIC who was part owner of the ship 'Vittoria'. He founded and edited the first independent newspaper in Ceylon, now alas taken over by the State as were his former plantations which belonged to us. I often played on the ramparts of the Fort and sipped lime juice at the NOH. Nearby is the Dutch church where George's memorial is. I attended the Galle Convent.

 

My ancestor first reached Ceylon in the 1800's and my Dutch and German ancestors before that. I wanted to establish an environmental charity at our former home near Hikkaduwa but the local M.P is in charge and hands out land like a Rajah for votes. Due to my ancestor, many local families made good and prospered as did the area. He provided the local ships which called at Galle with sugar and distilled Citronella oil from lemon grass, a variety is named after my own grandfather who sent it to Kew where it is preserved.

 

Our lovely, peaceful island has been ruined. Hikkaduwa, completely spoilt. I am afraid that Tourism destroys much as well as corrupt politicians. There is no justice in Lanka anymore and it saddens me so much to see the state of the place when I return to our once lovely Closenberg, as I did in 1994/5, and I am sorry you will never know just how wonderful the area was. Koggala was also lovely and one could swim safely and observe the coral as we did at Hikkaduwa. I wonder if you have visited any of these places? If I find the brochure I got from the Hotel I will send you a copy.

 

Anne Winter Williams cottesbrooke@aol.com


 

Magazine Sunday Observer 08 February, 1998
Closenberg is a marvellous place to rest, dine and wine
By Susanne Loos-Jayawickreme

This old colonial mansion in Galle is possibly one of the best preserved in Sri Lanka. Entering this huge milk-white building it's spacious verandahs are tempting to relax in the authentic chairs from the 19th century. Lovely pergolas covered with red Bougainvilleas as are framing the well-kept garden overlooking the ocean.

Wherever you look you will notice the traditional emblem of the P & O Company, the "rising sun". It is carved in the original furniture, in the ornamental lintels over the doorways and windows, and this sun beams under the restaurant ceiling as well.

The history of this charming mansion is fascinating as well. The Dutch have built a fortress on an island at the entrance of the Galle Bay, when they have taken over Galle from the Portuguese in the early 18th century. They have named it Closenberg. The Sinhalese called it the New Port or “Aluth Kotuwa”. This new port has fallen into abandonment and ruin by time. Captain Bailey arrived in Galle as an agent for P & O in 1859. As soon as he discovered the disused fort, he immediately bought it from the British Crown. The Captain built the manor and named the enchanting house after his wife Marina as "Villa Marina". In 1880 Captain Bailey settled down in Colombo and sold the house to the P & O Company. After some time the Perera Abeywardena family bought the historical spot and changed the name into Closenberg. Today the building still belongs to this old Galle family. Managing Director Kumar Perera Abeywardena is the owner and proprietor of the hotel. He is a direct descendant of the first Sri Lankan owner of Closenberg.

The name "Closenberg" itself is still the big question

 

Jennifer vanderGreft jennifergreft@gmail.com