Galle Heritage Foundation

The British Period

70 th Regiment of the British Forces in Sri Lanka

On 23 rd February 1796 the 70 th Regiment of the British Forces in Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon), led by Captain Locklan Macwary, took control of Galle without any fighting. The British Governor stationed in Madras was in charge of Ceylon until October 1798. Due to difficulties of administration, Sir Fredrick North was appointed Governor and Commander in Chief of the British territory of Sri Lanka by Royal proclamation dated 12 th October 1798. It also marked the beginning of the Ceylon Civil Service.

In 1833, several administrative reforms were carried out on the recommendation of a Commission which comprised Mr. H.H. Colebrook and Mr. H.C. Cameron. Under these reforms, the island of Ceylon was divided into 5 provinces. They chose Galle as the centre of administration of the Southern Province. The Southern Province contained the districts of Galle, Matara, Tangalle, Hambantota, Uva, Wellassa, Buttala and Ratnapura. By 1845, these districts were consolidated to form three districts, namely, Galle, Matara and Hambantota.

Galle Fort during the British period

Galle Fort became a hive of activity during the height of the British rule in Sri Lanka.

No major alterations were done by them to the Fortress itself, other than the construction of the entrance on the esplanade side.

Until independence in 1948, the office of the Government Agent who was the chief administrator of the district was located in the old Dutch hospital building.

The Law Court complex built during the British period still remains without major changes.

As the port of Galle was used by the British as the main harbor in the country until the building of the Colombo port, Galle Fort also became the centre for port related activities. The big commercial houses of Chas. P. Hayley, E. Coates and Clark Spence, who handled shipping, were head quartered inside the Fort. Many hotels and restaurants also came up in the Fort which catered mainly to the British expatriate community. Among them were:

  • The New Oriental Hotel
  • The Old Mansion Hotel
  • The Sea View Hotel
  • The New Mansion/Eglinton Restaurant
  • The Lore’s Hotel
  • The Pavilion Hotel

  • established in 1868 (presently Amangalla)
  • owned by Mr. Henry Bogas
  • owned by Mr. Angelo Ephraums
  • owned by Mr. C.B.Bogas
  • owned by Mr. Eugine Lore
  • owned by Mrs. Braybrook

The Gymkhana Club house and tennis court and several other tennis courts were also located inside the Fort.

Another prominent landmark during the latter period of British rule was the Ephraums department store (presently the Bank of Ceylon). The Albion press was located in the basement of this building.



There was no major architectural change in the street pattern within Galle fort by British town plan. With the conversion of Galle fort which had been used as a centre for war affairs to an administrative head quarters by British, Galle fort became more frequented.


British made certain charges in the streets of Galle fort. Due to development of areas which were not developed during Dutch period and construction of buildings in those areas, Streets spread there. New roads came up in the areas left abandoned during Dutch period having been developed
* Street known as new Leyn Baan Street became Hospital street with the commencement of the.
* Rest of Parwa street became Modara Bay
* Kuda Veediya and Nava Veediya were made connecting Lighthouse Street and Lehn Baan Street through several unpopulated land areas.

With the expansion of harbour operation, two jetties were added to Galle harbour in the 18th century. Old jetty made of wood was developed as a passage jetty. One jetty was developed as an import jetty and the other was developed as an export jetty. By the time British governance ended, Galle harbour was equipped with 05 jetties. It appears that British mostly used bricks, cement, steel and iron to construct jetties. For construction of an additional jetty, Galle customs had spent Rs.66,000/- in 1913AD. In the year 1927AD a cost of Rs.10,800/- was incurred to widen no 03 jetty, or the import jetty of Galle harbour. Similarly, to develop the passenger jetty and export jetty British government had spent Rs.44,000/-
Concurrent with the expansion of harbour activities buildings to provide harbour related services were newly built and some old buildings also were renovated to suit that purpose. During mid 18th century, Harbour Master’s office was located in the right hand side first floor of the old warehouse building near the old gate and the office was then called master’s Attendance office. Office of the collector of customs was in the first floor of the left hand side of the same building. That part of the warehouse building had been reinforced with flight of steps strengthened with arches and large windows were felted to the warehouse building. Those can be quoted as architectural alterations done by British to renovate the building to suit the requirements.
Coal stores owned by private shipping companies supplying naval services; granaries and board yard associated institutions were housed in some of those buildings.

* Entrance road through old fort gate took the name “Custom Road’’
* With the construction of the lighthouse near Kodigala at the end of the road known earlier as De zee Berg straat in 1848, it was named Light House Street.
* In 1873, that road was further extended between sun tower and moon tower and a new gate was opened to pettah.
* Open spaces in the middle of groups of buildings in the old Galle fort gradually became service streets or “Ally streets’’ later.


It was in 1894Ad the dry toilet system was introduced to residents of Galle fort. That toilet system was tried out for 08 days on Cando Street and Parwa. Street by sanitary officers of Galle municipal council. Until that time sewage from house in Galle fort were disposed through an underground drainage system constructed from under the streets by Dutch. The drainage system was above sea level and cleaning drainage was carried out daily. It is clear that the initial constructions of the sewage disposal system dates back to Dutch period.
Due to emission of stink as a result of dried up sewage inside the underground ditches for a long time since mid-19th century sea water was put into the drainage system using carts to clean those underground drains water for that work was procured from a windmill installed near Triton watch tower. Instead of transporting water from the windmill using carts, Galle municipal council made arrangement to lay 2000 reef clay pipes to underground drains through streets where needed from Triton watch tower thus facilitating the cleaning of those underground drains.
Leaving the Dutch sewage disposal system to dry up for long durations formed breeding places to harmful insects and accumulation of refuse continued resulting a cause for diseases. Galle municipal council taking steps to change the swage disposal system at a cost of Rs.3,280/- can be cited as an example of showing the influence of British architectural techniques. The construction of the sewerage at that time above 4 feet sea level can be identified. The sewerage was completely repaired by municipal council charging its shapes to circular cross sectional form after removing coral, giving it an arch shape with brick and cement sides and laying a stone base. Side drains of Lighthouse Street and peddler street also were re constructed using cut granite.
Use of sewerage system went out of use with introduction of the dry toilet system by Galle municipal council after 1894 AD. That was a cause directly influenced to changes in structural plans of buildings in Galle fort and also the town plan. The old toilet system in the old house in Galle changed with this new system particularly due to introduction of Bucket toilets the house owners had to provide a separate side way adjacent to houses along outside for the scavenger to carry away the bucket full of excreta. This passageway is constructed in each shape or rectangular shape. As a special feature it had a small door to enter. Specs left an open land within groups of building also had to be converted to service passages or “alley ways’’ for the use of scavengers and that was a major reason for the change of Dutch architectural plan in the Galle fort’ Old residents of fort way that until the water seal toilet system was introduced to the buildings in Galle fort by Galle municipal council, that old system of disposing excreta was in use.
British government collected from resident in Galle for lightning streets from 1824AD. Lamps were mounted on wooden posts spaced about 200feet and those posts were replaced later with cast iron posts imported from England. This system of Lighting Street continued till 1925AD.


It was in Ceylon the British colonists first started the horse coach service. This service was started in 1832AD from Colombo to Kandy during the period of governor Robert William Horton (1832-37AD). Similarly the speed postal bag service from Galle to Colombo was started during British period. The pioneer of this service operated as pigeon express by server newspaper was a businessman named Dr. Elliot.

Changes in Fort

By 1858Ad, British governance started the Horse Coach Postal service straight up to Colombo. At the commencement of Horse Coach postal service, the stables and officers of the service were established in the Galle fort. Horse coach officer serving Matara and Kalutara were operated through two old Dutch building on Peddler street near present National Junction.

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Tourist Hotels and Restaurants Built During British Period of Ruling

British administration had to build hotels and restaurants to provide facilities to foreigners arrived at the town through the harbour as Galle fort continued developing as a commercial town and also as a harbour town.

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Business Places Warehouses and Government Buildings

It Appears That Galle fort town had been extensively developed during 19th century due to trading activities connected with the Galle harbor. Building in Galle fort were particularly used as warehouses and offices of business connected with naval activities of Galle harbor.

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Galle Fort During British Regime and Its Architectural Anti type

It can be clearly ascertained that measure had been taken during British regime to change the town plan of Galle fort, Alter the old buildings for re use, and construct new buildings for specific requirement and also to reinforce old buildings using their methods and techniques

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Evolvement of Galle Fort Town Plan During British Era

The changes of land use of buildings in the town plan of Galle fort during British period can be identified in the maps.

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Development of The Harbor

Suez Canal which helped in the progress of international navigation was opened in 1869AD separating African and Asian continents up to that time, vessels had to be navigated round the African continent to reach Asia.

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