I discovered its existence in the pages of an airline magazine which you can see here: Richmond Castle- A Tale of Grandeur and Romance One that saves me from having to offer a historical overview of the mansion nestled away by the Kalu Ganga, not too distant from the Kalutara town.
I am intrigued by old buildings. Especially those with winding histories and tragic stories and Richmond Castle worked its magic on me on a plane from London to Colombo years ago. The opportunity never presented itself until Zissous and I decided that Kalutara was worth an exploration. The town has always been a blip on travels to the South, marked by the pause of pious driver who leaves coins at the bodhi. The town is unexceptional (the townsfolk oddly confused by an inquiry into where the Perera and Sons was) and there’s nowhere anyone could recommend to have a nice lunch outside the hotel stretch. We ended up having sandwiches at a bleak little seaside place that overcharged for dry bread and lime soda. A couple of people mentioned a place called Panorama which looked shady at best and booked out for a wedding. There were also no panoramic views to speak of.
After having wandered around the temple, we left in search of the intriguing Richmond Castle, its waning magic still drawing in a smattering of visitors.
Richmond Castle: A First Glimpse
The Castle was home to Nanayakkara Rajawasala Appuhamilage Don Arthur De Silva Wijeysinghe Siriwardena, the Mudaliyar of Kalutara District during the early 1900s and an lavish life did he live. I couldn’t help but imagine it as a setting for Michelle de Krester’s protagonist Sam Obeysekere’s (The Hamilton Case) family home gilded with glittering paraphernalia from the Empire and flamboyant colonial personalities with dark secrets hosting grandiose garden parties. The story reads that Arthur was inspired by the extravagant home of a school chum, who happened to be a Maharajah (story magic!). Young Arthur moved to his fabulous mansion upon marrying Clarice Matilda Maude Suriyabandara, living in a whirlwind of luxurious banquets and visiting dignitaries.
However, the couple’s life was coloured with the sadness of childlessness. The property is scattered with marble cherubs which the couple were believed to gaze upon longingly, their marriage deteriorating into separation.
Clarice lived in a nunnery til the age of 80, while Arthur lived in solitude in the Queens Hotel in Kandy until the age of 59, bequeathing his wealth to the Public Trustee’s Office and never returning to Richmond Castle.
The Castle is now in parts a school for underprivileged children in the area, its lavish rooms transformed into makeshift classrooms but the enchantment of its intriguing history lingers like the ghosts of long ago party guests wandering its gardens at dawn.
The Grand Ballroom
So if you’re taking the long-route to get to the South for some beach time, well worth checking out on the way. A wonderful bit of local history.
Getting there: Easy access from Galle Road just past the Kalutara town. http://g.co/maps/2u8pb