Chapter 18 - 1871 - Trader

An agency house, pure and simply is a company that looks after the interests of its clients, be they absentee proprietors or Estate owners, in the supervision of the Estates and the disposal of the crop. Ms H C McBryde & Son for whom Richard worked was such an agency. Supervision of Estates was work was highly specialized and self-contained. It revolved around the Visiting Agent or V.A. who owed his tremendous prestige to the awkward mechanism of coffee growing and the need to finance the crop. This lead to a system whereby ‘the output for the coming season was estimated shortly after the trees had blossomed and the berry still green, and on the strength of this estimate, the Agent made arrangements for an advance, either direct through a local bank or a financial house in London.

“For this work experienced Valuers are required and thus we find the leading men in the coffee industry being invited to form themselves into a mercantile firm and from this grew the system of appointing Visiting Agents whose work was not so much to advise on the management and cultivation of the Estates, but to estimate the amount of credit that could be given to the proprietor. Estates were also constantly changing hands and the Visiting Agent was called in on behalf of the vendor or the purchasing party to value the property. This involved considerable responsibility and the services of reliable Visiting Agents were keenly competed for by the Agency Firms”.

For this practical experience ‘on the garden’ was essential and thenceforward the ideal V.A was an efficient planter rather than an expert valuer. The experience and knowledge that Richard had gained while being trained and working under people like William Sabondiere made him an ideal person for such a position. Agency Companies such as Sabondiere & Co and J.M. Robertson & Co subcontracted a lot of this work to Ms H C Bryde & Co.

Due to family commitments, Richard could only visit estates that were within half a days ride from Kandy. This was not a satisfactory arrangement and his employer discussed the possibility of transfer to their recently opened branch office in Nuwara Eliya. The era of tea was just beginning to replace coffee and H.C.Bryde & Co saw an opportunity to capitalize on the expansion of tea plantations.

The Ferguson’s Directory of 1871 shows Richard Rowlands as a Storekeeper with H.C.Byrde & Co. Nuwara Eliya.

Richard William Rowlands




He was in charge of the store and was involved in the finance of the coffee crop, the valuation of the crop and the transport to Colombo via Kandy using the de Soysa’s transport facilities.

Disease was not the only menace proprietors of coffee estates had to face. Fire was also a very real danger, with large areas being destroyed in 1872. The damage done to plants and buildings had also to be assessed.

Through his work with H.C.Bryde & Co, Richard was also the Agent for some of the following houses that were available in Nuwara Eliya, during the season, when Europeans, to escape the heat in the low country would holiday in Nuwara Eliya.

House owned by Messrs J.M.Robertson,
‘Byrdes Nest’ owned by Captain Henry Byrde of Kandy.
‘Rose Bank’ owned by Mrs Brown



In the Kabristan Archives “Graveyards in Ceylon – Kandy region Vol IV” on page 30 the following entry reads:-

Jane Amelia Byrde (nee Walker (should be Waller)) Born Abt 1840, Bombay, India, married 1859, wife of Captain Henry Byrde, 57th Regiment, Lieut-Colonel CLI, died 30th September 1892, aged 53 years.

Her husband Henry Byrde born 3rd December 1837 in Ceylon,(son of Captain Henry Charles Byrde) died 10th July 1907. He served in the Crimean war and present at the battles of Alma and Inkerman. At nineteen years he was a captain, probably the youngest in the British Army. He joined his father in business in Ceylon and is believed to have regretted it. When the Ceylon Light Infantry Volunteer Corp was formed he was elected Lieut-Colonel. He was also involved with the construction of the Kandy Dam and served on the Municipal Council. Apparently he knew a lot about Kandy, tree planting and was a good amateur actor, etc.

Children of Captain Henry and Jane Amelia Byrde, were:-
· Henry Byrde **
· Robert Byrde
· Frances Byrde
· Katherine Byrde
· Amy Byrde, born Kandy, Ceylon.

In the Kabristan Archives “Graveyards in Ceylon – Kandy region Vol IV” on page 48 the following entry reads:-

A burial plot was purchased by Mr.E.M.Byrde (Evans Maburly Byrde – son of Rev: Richard Augustus Byrde) 14th June 1937 for Mr.H.W.Byrde.(Henry Byrde ** his cousin).









Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya and adjoining Grave Yard


























Holy Trinity Church, Altar

where Richard and Charlotte would have been married






It was during this year that he met Charles Fredrick Don who had a beautiful sister,a Eurasian woman named Charlotte Caroline. Richard Rowlands was introduced to Charlotte at a party given for the staff of the Nuwara Eliya Branch by Captain Henry Bryde at the “Byrdes Nest”. It was love at first sight.





A short engagement followed and Richard William Rowlands and Charlotte Caroline Don were married at the Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya on 21st February 1872, with one of the flower girls being Alice Hope Rowlands and one of the page boys being James Henry Rowlands.
After the Wedding the guests adjourned to the reception at “Byrdes Nest”.





The Don family who had several business interests in the Town and District owned a property in Chapel Street next to a stream and on this land they built their first mud brick house.



Daub & Wattle Mud House























The Marriage Certificate of Richard William Rowlands and Charlotte Carline Don at the Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya on 21 February 1872, Witnesses are:- William Oakley and two others.

























Their first child, Richard Walter Rowlands was born on 21 November 1872. The baby was weak and sickly, he was baptized on 27th December 1872 and he died on 4th January 1873. The burial took place at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya on 6th January 1873, with the grieving parents being supported by Charlotte’s family. (This is confirmed by Eileen Hewson in her book “Graveyards of Ceylon – Nuwara Eliya – Vol II- European Burial Records 1843 – 1964, on page 35).

They had other trials and tribulations, especially when the steam beside the property flooded and nearly destroyed their daub and wattle mud house

The Ferguson’s Directory of 1872 shows Richard Rowlands as a Storekeeper with H.C.Byrde & Co. Nuwara Eliya.


John Wilhemus Don and Caroline were married at St Pauls Church, Colombo on 2nd December 1833.
It’s also interesting to note that Eileen Hewson in her book “Graveyards in Ceylon – Nuwara Eliya – Vol II – European Burial Records – page 32, indicates that Charlotte Caroline Don had a sister named Georgiana Frederica Don , daughter of John.W.Don, who died aged 8 and was buried on 13th October 1845 in the Holy Trinity Church graveyard, Nuwara Eliya.

John and Caroline Don also had another daughter Sophia Eleanor Don who was born on 18th November 1847 and was baptized on 27th February 1848.


Also, a son Charles Fredrick Don was born on 6th October 1850 and baptized on 8th June 1851. Charles Don is buried in the St Marks’s Church Graveyard in Badulla.

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