Places,  Tourism

Adisham Bungalow or Adisham Hall in Sri Lanka

Adisham Bungalow or Adisham Hall is a Country house near Haputale, in the Badulla District, Sri Lanka.  At present, it houses the Adisham monastery of Saint Benedict. It has a relic (a chip of a bone) of St. Sylvester at the chapel.

 

Adisham Bungalow is a nineteenth-century British period building, which was modelled on Leeds Castle in Kent, England. Sir Thomas Villiers, a distinguished British resident in Sri Lanka in the early 20th century, used it as his country house. Later it became a Benedictine monastery. The Thangamale Bird Sanctuary is located next to the bungalow.

A four km drive from Haputale will lead you to Adisham, a monastery run by Benedictine Monks. Wrapped in the tranquility of the misty hills, Adisham Bungalow attracts every eye that falls on it. The pages of history reveal that the creator of this enthralling place is Sir Thomas Lister Villiers. Sir Thomas Lister Villiers was born in 1869 in Adisham, an ancient village which lies in the hollow of the Kent country side. He was the son of Reverend Prebendary Henry Montegu Villiers who belonged to Clarendon family and his mother was Lady Victoria Russell the daughter of (Grandfather of Sir Thomas Lister Villiers) who was twice the prime minister of Britain (1846 – 52, & 1865 – 66). As leader of the Whig party, he was most responsible for changing its name to the Liberal Party.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The house was built in 1931 by an English aristocrat and planter Sir Thomas Villiers, former Chairman of George Steuart Co, a trading and estate agency based in Colombo. Sir Thomas was a grandson of Lord John Russell and descendant of the Dukes of Bedford. Named after Adisham, it was designed by R. Booth and F. Webster in Tudor and Jacobean style, on 10 acres (40,000 m2) of land. Adisham Hall played host to many prominent personalities of the colony until the retirement of Sir Thomas, after which it was sold to Sedawatte Mills in 1949. In 1961 it was purchased by the Roman Catholic Church and was subsequently converted to a monastery. The house is well preserved along with its period fittings and furniture, and is open to visitors.

 

History of Adisham Bungalow or Adisham Hall

He also strongly opposed the employment of children as domestic servants and maintained that the state had an obligation to provide all children with an education so that they could improve their position in life. Sir Thomas also appealed to the members to support the introduction of adult franchise unanimously. He was also among those who wanted adultery made a criminal offence. During that time when the question of establishing a non-residential university in Colombo or a residential university in Kandy arose, Sir Thomas was a member of this commission. He finally selected the new Peradeniya Estate for a residential university.

He was for several years the Trustee for the Church of England. He was both a parishioner and a benefactor of St. Michael’s Church Polwatte. He was also the patron of St. Michael’s Sports Club. Expanding his services to this small island nation he wrote three books which include a book on some tea industry pioneers published in 1951. The youth who stepped into Ceylon converted into a man of knowledge and of great service and returned to the United Kingdom at the age of 82. There he entered his second marriage with a Ceylonese called Marjorie Keyt who nursed Sir Thomas throughout an illness he suffered. She also spent a part of her life as his secretary cum companion before uniting with him in marriage. She was a daughter of Edwin Keyt of Colombo. The wedding took place in the fashionable London Church of St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge where Sir Thomas’ father had once being the vicar.

Sir Thomas Lister Villiers gained his education at Sherborne School. After completing his studies he chose to come to Ceylon as a trainee on Elbedde Estate, Bogawantalawa. Thus, a young man with just 10 pounds in his pocket began building his life here in Ceylon. In 1896 Thomas Villiers married Evelyn Hope, a daughter of the planter W. H. Walker of Punduloya North. The wedding took place at the Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya. Evelyn Hope was a keen painter and her paintings decorate Adisham walls even at present. She gave birth to their first son lieutenant Henry Lister Villiers in 1897, who was later killed in action on 4th February 1917. Their second son was commander Thomas Hyde Villiers who was born on 15th January 1902 and died in 1955

Sir Thomas was always aware of his responsibilities and thus was in touch with the directors at of George Stuarts until his very last days. In the late fifties Sir Thomas wrote a letter to the Wages Commission mentioning that it was very necessary to introduce weekly wages in Ceylon. After enjoying a healthy and a vigorous life Sir Thomas Villiers passed away on December 21st in 1959. The funeral service took place at St. Paul’s Knights bridge while the cremation was held at Pulury Vale. Lady Villiers also died in London in 1964 at the age of 60.

The Villiers presence in Ceylon concluded but their pleasant memories and the life story is carved in every stone that holds up the Adisham bungalow in Haputale.It was while he was chairman of George Steuarts that Sir Thomas commenced building his dream home in the country. He selected a peaceful site at Haputale, surrounded by beautiful forest called Tangamalai which means Golden Hills. The piece of land was alienated because of its 5,000 feet elevation. Yet it was not a barrier for Sir Thomas. A road was cut through the forest to pave the way to reach the land which commanded views across hills and valleys and the highest mountain ranges of Ceylon. On a clear day, a sightseer will be privileged to view Totapolakanda, Hakgala, Piduruthalagala, the Uda Pussellawa range of mountains known as the sleeping warrior, Diyatalawa Army Camp, Namunukula and numerous other mountains which stretch out for miles on end. The building and garden are on ten acres on land which formed a part of the forest reserve. Cutting the site in preparation for the building commenced in 1929.

Sir Thomas Lister Villiers gained his education at Sherborne School. After completing his studies he chose to come to Ceylon as a trainee on Elbedde Estate, Bogawantalawa. Thus, a young man with just 10 pounds in his pocket began building his life here in Ceylon. In 1896 Thomas Villiers married Evelyn Hope, a daughter of the planter W. H. Walker of Punduloya North. The wedding took place at the Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya. Evelyn Hope was a keen painter and her paintings decorate Adisham walls even at present. She gave birth to their first son lieutenant Henry Lister Villiers in 1897, who was later killed in action on 4th February 1917. Their second son was commander Thomas Hyde Villiers who was born on 15th January 1902 and died in 1955

The house was designed in the Tudor style, on the lines of Leeds Castle in Kent, with stout granite walls of locally quarried stone, long, narrow turret windows and chimneys. It looked in every detail an Elizabethan country mansion flowing in the memories of Sir Thomas Villiers’ well-loved home in Kent and his childhood memories. The house gave an onlooker a sense solidity, permanence and stability.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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