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Home > Heritage > Fort of Ruwanwella

Fort of Ruwanwella

- A Historic Fort and a Wayside Ambalama -

It was a sizzling hot afternoon. The sun scorched road glowered at us The roadside shade trees, paddy fields, flowering plants glowed in a their brilliant hues. The concrete buildings that lined the road seemed to be burning. Such was it when we reached the crowded, traffic -- congested Ruwanwella town.

It was not at all the kind of day, time or place to get out of our vehicle and go looking for an ancient fort.

The only indication given to us was that it was in the main town. We asked for directions from a shop and a man pointed towards the courthouse. We walked the short distance passing the crowded courthouse and suddenly reached a wide arched gate - so out of place and obviously that of the fort. And, believe it or not, the fort of Ruwanwella now houses the local police station.

With regard to the Ruwanwella Fort, it is said that the Portuguese, in the 1590s, had a fortified base camp here and the Dutch, in 1665, built a wooden fort here but abandoned it a few years later. It was the English, in 1817, who built the actual fort with two bastions. It is recorded that the fort at Ruwanwella was never more than a stockade, though it was of some importance as a useful outpost. Nevertheless the difficulty of holding it led to its early abandonment.

In close proximity to the fort is yet another interesting building referred to as the ambalama. But having lost its purpose it is today leased out to the Ayurveda Department which runs its sales outlet and a canteen within it. The one time open hallway has been enclosed by walls, we were told.

The building is a strange mixture of the past and the present.. The tiled roof stands on 21 pillars in sets of 4. The pillars are carved with local motifs. The Pinthaliya or water container made of stone stands on a side, forlorn and so sadly out of place. A plaque in the centre of the inside wall states that this ambalama was built by her friends in memory of Lily Hariot Davidson, wife of the Assistant Government Agent of this district from 1892 to 1896, as a tribute to her work here. As to who this lady was we had no clue. No doubt it would be interesting to find out !

by Kishanie S. Fernando
Daily Mirror, August 29, 2005

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Updated February 13, 2007
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