Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Adisham Bungalow: Dream of a homesick Englishman.

Well, I'm writing after quite a long vacation. This is actually something to read. It's about a mansion in Sri Lanka built by an Englishman on a land 5,000 feet above mean sea level. This mansion was famous among the villagers of Haputale by the nickname 'Laksha Bungalawa' (The Bungalow that took one hundred thousand rupees to build) about 80 years ago.

Sir Thomas Lister Villiers

Portrait of Sir Thomas Lister.
Sir Thomas Lister Villiers was one of the last few British statesmen in Sri Lanka that belonged to the colonial times. He was a descendant of an elite family in Britain. Sir Thomas seems to have loved adventure, for he chose to try his life in Ceylon (a British colony those days) even when he had the opportunity of settling down in Britain as a statesman after his higher education. He arrived in Ceylon in 1887 with only 10 sterling pounds in his pocket and started his life here as a trainee planter at an Estate in Norwood. In two years he became an Assistant Superintendent, and in four more years he was appointed as an Estate Superintendent. In seven more years; that is in 1900, he purchased Dickoya Estate as a partnership with his brother, making himself a proprietary planter.

Putting an end to his 18-year long career as a planter, Sir Thomas Lister joined the George Steuart Company in Colombo in 1905, and became its Chairman in 1928.

The Dream-home; Adisham

The Adisham.
All this time, Sir Thomas Lister Villiers had a dream. He was homesick. He wanted to build a home for himself which will remind him of being in the village of Adisham, Kent County, England, where he was born.

View Larger Map
He selected a piece of land of ten acres within an isolated mountainous area covered with natural high forest, 5,000 feet above mean sea level, close to Haputale. This forest area, called Thangamalei is a wildlife sanctuary today.
Entrance to the Thangamalei Wildlife Sanctuary.
Sir Thomas started making a road to his future ‘dream-home’ through the forest in 1929.
Sir Thomas Lister got his ‘dream-home’, the Adisham, by architects R. Booth and F. Webster according to what is called the ‘Tudor Style’ to which the Leeds Castle in Kent was designed. The walls were built using locally produced granite. Its roof is covered with Burmese Teak tiles. Most household items were imported from England. Sir Thomas’ portrait which is hanging in the living room was done by the famous painter David Paynter. Sir Thomas Lister and Lady (Evelyn Hope) Villiers moved to live in this mansion in 1931. Lady Villiers too was a painter, and a number of her
Views from Adisham Garden.
paintings can be seen hanging on the walls of Adisham Bungalow today. Sir Thomas used a Daimler car and he had a British chauffeur employed for that. The extension on the left to the mansion was the chauffeur’s quarters.

The Adisham Today

Product outlet at Adisham.
When in 1949 Sir Thomas Lister left Sri Lanka he sold his dream-home to Ms. Rukmani Beligammana Wijewardena in 1951. After ten years the Sylvestro-Benedictine Congregation of the Catholic Church of Sri Lanka bought it from her. It is used as a monastery ever since, and the fathers came to reside in Adisham Bungalow in 1961. Adisham is maintained and controlled by the Benedictine fathers now.
Sir Thomas's Chauffeur's Quarters turned to a Guest House.
The quarters used as Sir Thomas’ chauffeur’s residence is used today as a Guest House administrated by the Benedictine Monastery. There is also an outlet of various products originated from Adisham. Cordials, jams, chutneys and toppings made out of the exotic fruits from the orchards (originally cultivated by Sir Thomas) are available for sale at this outlet.

The Adisham Bungalow is open for the public only on weekends and Poya days. Each visitor (children or adults) will be charged Rs.25 as an entrance fee. Snacks and soft drinks are available for the visitors at the small canteen adjoining the Adisham Products outlet. Call (+94)057 2268 030 if you would like to book a room in the Guest House for a stay at Adisham.