Galle Heritage Foundation

The Dutch Period

Dutch were able to overcome the Portuguese and capture Galle Fort

The fortress which was built by the Portuguese was captured by the Dutch on March 13th 1640 after a battle. Portuguese writer Parinavo Kerosh has given a detailed description of the Galle Fort and the battle which led to its conquest by the Dutch in his book The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylon.

According to him, a Dutch contingent of about 2000 soldiers led by Admiral Wilhelm Jacobs Coster had landed at Unawatuna, a coastal village south of Galle, on 8th March 1640. They had proceeded on foot to Magalle where they got themselves entrenched. When the Portuguese military headquarters in Colombo received this news, they immediately dispatched to Galle a contingent of 323 soldiers, led by Captain Major Francesco de Mendona Manuel, by land, who were joined on the way by a further 1800. Their armoury was a loose collection of canons, guns of various types and even bows. By that time there were only about 110 Portuguese soldiers led by Captain Lorenzo Perera de Britto stationed in Galle Fort and they were in no way equipped to put up any effective resistence to the Dutch.

In the battle which ensued, the Dutch were able to overcome the Portuguese and capture Galle Fort. It is recorded as one of the fiercest battles which the Dutch fought in Sri Lanka.

The conquest of Galle was celebrated in Batavia on 20 th April 1640. The importance the Dutch gave to the capture of Galle is demonstrated by the fact that this event was annually celebrated by them during the one and a half centuries of Dutch rule in Sri Lanka.

The small fortification in Galle which was captured from the Portuguese by the Dutch was considerably expanded and improved by them according to their own distinct architectural style.

The following are the special architectural features of Fortified City of Galle after it was remodeled by the Dutch:-

  1. The fortification containing 14 bastions
  2. Buildings constructed for military, administrative and commercial purposes including the large warehouse building
  3. The unique underground drain complex
  4. The interconnected road network
  5. The interconnected surface drain network
  6. Special defence constructions
  7. Church buildings with distinct architectural style
  8. Beautifully designed official quarters and private houses

After the capture of Galle, initially the Dutch made it their administrative capital in the island. The following Governors operated from Galle:


  • Wilhelm Jacobs Coster
  • Jaan Thaisen Fayat
  • Joan Mansukar
  • Jacob Van Kitinstein
  • Adrian Van d’Medin

Time Period

  • from 1640 March
  • from 1640 August
  • from 1646 May
  • from 1650 February
  • from 1653 October to 1656 May

Subsequently, the following Dutch Commanders were stationed in Galle:

  • Jacob Hustart
  • 1660 – Adrian Ruthas
  • 1686 – Nicholas Van d’Meulan
  • 1686 – Thomas Van Ray
  • 1692 – Rutgers d’Heid
  • 1693 – Carlbolner Van Danci
  • 1704 – Gerard Von Toll
  • 1705 – Nicholas Welters
  • 1708 – Adrian Vander Daun
  • 1709 – Johan Vander Weldern
  • 1710 – Philip Van Ukulan
  • 1713 – Cornelis Thai Van Tessel
  • 1714 – Johannes Harthenberg
  • 1714 – Janus Fauts
  • 1719 – Anthony Swarts
  • 1720 – Nicholas Geupal

  • 1720 – Hendrick Laurence
  • 1721 – Arnold Moll
  • 1723 – Johan Paul Scargen
  • 1732 – Van McRay
  • 1736 – Daniel Overbake
  • 1737 – Iming de Yong
  • 1742 – Jacob de Yong
  • 1747 – Johan Gerard Fayland
  • 1752 – Kaspersz Yong
  • 1758 – Abraham Smilant
  • 1759 – Ras Mackay
  • 1766 – Arnodras de Lye
  • 1787 – Cornelis Drynesius Krainhoff
  • 1788 – Peter Slauskan
  • 1792 – Deedreck Thomas Fets

Dutch Regime (1640 – 1796 AD)

Although Dutch instituted their power in Galle in 1640 AD, both parties were active in establishing powers earlier. Admiral Joris Fun Spilburcheon took aboard from Netherland in 1601 AD had arrived in Ceylon on 31st May, 1602 AD to convey the blessing of the king of Netherland.

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Dutch – Portuguese War

William Jacob Coater who succeeded in completely conjuring Galle fort by 16th March, 1640 AD continued in the Dutch Governorship of Galle until 04th July, 1640 AD. Few months later he is said to have been killed by Natives on his return from a visit to Kandyan king.

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Dutch Town Plan and Architectural Features of Galle Fort

Although Portuguese took pains to commence development of Galle fort providing it with their basic requirements, it was Dutch who developed Galle fort as a planned town to the satisfaction of the town dwellers.

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