Chapter 19 - 1872 - New Products and Infrastructure

Governor Sir William (then the Right Honorable Mr) Gregory arrived in the island in the early part of 1872, full of the belief that there was little left for him to do in the way of material improvements, save to build on the line laid down by his predecessor, more specially in carrying out the Colombo Harbour Works. He soon found out his mistake. Sir Hercules Robinson had pronounced for “Nawalapitiya and finality” in respect of rail, but the planting community and the Planters Association wanted a further extension into the other planting districts. One of the first questions that Sir William Gregory had to deal with was that of a Dimbula-Uva extension of 67 miles to Haputale, an enquiry and survey which he readily granted.

Viaduct on Kandy – Haputale Line
At the very onset of his career he formed a decidedly unfavourable opinion respecting the permanence of coffee and his public reference to estates “lapsing into jungle” excited a good deal of discussion. Sir William Gregory could have taken credit as a prophet, provided his opinion in 1872 had been based on an anticipation of the ravages of leaf-disease.

Few Governors have left their mark on the Colony so clearly and distinctively, as Sir William Gregory and progress marked the five years of his rule, in agricultural enterprise especially. Besides his encouragement and active interest in the great scheme of railway extension to Dimbula-Uva he sanctioned and arranged for the Contractor to extend the railway a further 20 miles from Kandy to Matale by a branch line. In the low country he carried out a sea side railway line to Moratuwa and provided for its extension to kalutara.

Next to establishment of the North Central Province and the revival of native industry in that neglected part of the country, the most noteworthy portion of Sir William Gregory’s administration and the one which is most likely to be productive of lasting benefit are his special encouragement of the introduction and cultivation of new products. He took a direct and personal interest in the Peredeniya and Hakgala Gardens and he readily assented to the establishment of a branch garden in the low country near Mirigama, in which to experiment with products unsuited for the hills.

Hakgala Gardens Entrance

It was hoped that this garden would have a better fate than that experienced by the “Prince Alfred Model Farm” that was started with an endowment of ten thousand pounds from Messrs de Soysa during Sir Hercules Robinson’s time, land being provided by the Government. As waste of several thousand pounds without any corresponding benefit, the “Model Farm” collapsed, mainly due through the absence of experienced trained supervision such as could only be obtained through a trained agriculturist from the Mother Country.

Charlotte Rowlands gave birth to a son Cecil Fredrick Rowlands on 23rd August 1873. An entry in the Baptismal records on 28th August 1873 at Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya indicates that the baby was dangerously ill and a private baptism was arranged.

The baby died soon after. Richard and Charlotte are devastated at the loss of their second son. Life continued with Richard involved in the coffee trade.
The worsening situation in regards the coffee blight and the drop in coffee production meant that the workload at the Nuwara Eliya store was diminishing rapidly and H.C.Byrde & Co. went into liquidation. The result of this was that Richard Rowlands took the position of RestHouse Keeper at Ramboda and Pussellawa.

Charles Don, his brother-in-law then took over the agency and the following entries appear in the Ferguson’s Directory for 1874, for the following houses in Nuwara Eliya.

Pussellawa Rest House in 2007 (Picture)

Messrs J.M.Robertson – Agent – C.Don
Rose Bank – Agent – C.Don and William Sabondiere
Byrdes Nest – Agent – Mr.Parsons
The Priory – Owner – Rev.William.Rowlands

The Ferguson’s Directory of 1874 shows Richard Rowlands as the Rest House Keeper at Ramboda and Pussellawa.

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