Chapter 3 1796 – The British

The British take over from the Dutch and begin the process of unifying the country under British rule.
In 1795, during the Napoleonic War in Europe, the Prince of Orange had issued instructions from Kew in England to the Dutch Colonies to permit the entrance of British troops and ships of war for the purpose of preventing them falling into the hands of the French republicans and orders were given to the military to use force should they be refused entry. Lord Hobart, Governor of Fort St George, invited the Dutch Governor Van Anglebeck to place his colony in the possession of the British, to be restored to the Dutch at the general peace, at the same time threatening force is case of resistance. The local Dutch Government decided to adhere to the Stadtholder, but to defend themselves at Colombo, Galle and Trincomalee, if the British attempted hostilities. The reply to Lord Hobart stated that they were not ready to put Dutch settlements under the protection of the British Monarch. The proposal was not accepted by Lord Hobart and British forces comprised of the 19th Regiment of Foot “The Green Howards” and the 73rd Regiment “Royal Highland” “Perthshire” that was commanded by Colonel Burton Gage Barbutt arrived from India at Trincomalee, but difficulties were made by the local Commandant and the British Officers reverted to their instructions and required the delivery of the Fort, which was refused and subsequently captured by force on the 26th August 1795, two companies of the DeMeuron Regiment were taken prisoner by the British. James Welsh – a Junior Officer with the British Contingent that consisted of three European and five native corps, under the command of Colonel Steuart of His Majesty’s 72nd Regiment, in his book Military Reminiscences (Published 1830) states that quote:- “The Harbor of Trincomalee situated near the north-eastern extremity of the island of Ceylon, is one of the best in the Indian Ocean; it was defended by numerous works (Fort Fredrick) and might have given us much trouble to take, but fortunately the garrison were quiet merchants and mechanics who by their protracted defense, would have hazarded their all for the bubble reputation and therefore very speedily surrendered“. Batticaloe fell on 18th September and Jaffna without resistance on 28th September.
The Dutch East India Company went bankrupt and could not pay its troops. In the tradition of the time, the Demeuron Regiment entered British service. The transfer took place under the guidance of Henry Dundas, Viscount Melville, Secretary of War for Britain and Hugh Cleghorn, a friend of Comte Charles de Meuron. The rank and file were paid arrears due to them and 860 Demeuron registered in the British Army.

British Officer

The prisoners at Trincomalee and Colombo were released and Comte de Meuron and his brother Pierre were given the rank of General in the British Army. Under the terms of the agreement, finalized in 1798, the DeMeuron Regiment entered into full service with the British Army. It consisted of 2 battalions of 5 companies of infantry each.

The DeMeuron regiment was then transferred to India against the Marathas and Mysore and later to the Mediterranean to garrison Malta and took no part in the Kandyan War of 1803 or 1815.

The history of India and Sri Lanka in the period 1796 to 1821 is closely connected with the convict colonies of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land.

Fort Fredrick Trincomale with Coat of Arms

Captain Lachlan Macquarie arrived in Bombay on 3rd August 1788 and thereafter his life was irrevocably linked to the people and events in South Asia. The region shaped his military career, gave him his first experiences in independent command, provided him with the opportunities for promotion and helped him establish life long friendships as well as important patronage links.

It was during this time that he gained experiences that would prepare him for his later governorship of New South Wales and Van Diemen’s Land. The journals of Captain Lachlan Macquarie state that on the 4th February 1796 a British Force under the command of Colonel Stuart left Madras and Bombay for Negombo.

The command of the European Brigade consisting of the 52nd, 73rd, 77th Regiments was given to Colonel Banivea and that of the Bombay Grenadier Sepoy Brigade was given to Major Wiseman. They landed at Negombo without experiencing any contact with enemy troops. On 8th February the army commenced its march to Colombo making their first contact with the Dutch force across the Mahaveli Ganga (River).

Lachlan Macquarie as Governor of New South Wales

A gun fight took place during the day, but during the night the Dutch abandoned their Entrenchments on the opposite side of the river and went off in such a hurry that they took none of their guns, but threw them into the river. On the 12th the Dutch with a force of 845 Europeans and 772 Malays, attacked the British , but were repulsed with great loss, their commander Colonel De Lisle was mortally wounded and about 150 men killed and wounded. On Sunday 14th February Major Agnew the Adjutant-General was sent to Colombo under a Flag of Truce to summon the Dutch Governor Van Anglebeck to surrender the Fort to the British Arms or suffer the consequence. The Governor requested a Cessation of Hostilities for 24 hours and on the 16th February the Articles of Capitulation were signed by both parties surrendering the Town and Fortress of Colombo – with all its Dependencies on the Island of Ceylon. The terms of the agreement cast no obligation on the British to restore Ceylon to the Dutch at the peace, though at the time it was anticipated that this would be done. The surrender of Colombo to the British by capitulation was completed on 19th February 1796. Maritime Ceylon was to be governed from Madras.

Galle Fort Ramparts

The bravery and discipline of the Malay troops appealed to the British who decided to retain their services and formed a full battalion in Ceylon. Captain Macquarie was entrusted with the Command of a Detachment to take possession of the Town and Fortress of Point de Galle. Starting their march on 19th February, they passed through Panadura the next day, then Bentota the next and Ambalangoda, reaching Point de Galle on the 23rd February. Captain Macquarie was received by the Dutch Governor Fretz, all the Members of the Council and the Heads of Officers Military and Civil of the Dutch Administration and principal officers and other gentlemen of the Settlement. The Governor presented Captain Macquarie in a most solemn and formal manner, on a large Silver Salver, the keys of the different Gates of the Garrison; making a short but appropriate Speech on the occasion, in doing which he was however, very much affected and shed tears, as did several of the Gentlemen around him. Captain Macquarie was moved by the scene and not wishing to prolong their distress made a short reply to the Governor. During his stay in Galle, at the invitation of the former Governor, he stayed at his residence and they became firm friends. In 1814, after returning to India and England on more than one occasion, Captain Macquarie was prompted to Colonel and in 1814 with the 73rd Regiment of Foot became the Governor of the Colony of New South Wales in Australia. For four years the officers and soldiers of the 73rd Regiment became an integral part of the everyday life of the convict colonies in Australia.

Dutch Reformed Church, Wolvendall, Pettah

The Honorable.F.North (afterwards Earl of Guilford), Governor, issued a Proclamation on the 12th of October 1798, that made Ceylon a Crown Colony.

During the same year Rajadhi Raja Sinha died and Sri Wikrama Raja Sinha was raised to the Kandyan throne by the wily Prime Minister, Pilima Talauve; the Queen’s brother Muttuswamy escaped to Colombo. The Dutch Governor, Van Anglebeck died at Colombo on 3rd September 1799. In December of the same year, Pilima Talauve, anxious to become King, offered to assassinate the King of Kandy, if the British would assist him to ascend to the throne. The offer was rejected by Governor North, who was more interested in founding a financially viable colony. He created the first Botanical Garden at Ortafula, Peliyagoda on the Kelaniya River, Joseph Joinville being Curator. He also founded the first English Seminary for the indigenous population in Colombo on 15th December 1798. Governor North on 19th March 1800, sent General Macdowal as his ambassador to the King of Kandy to negotiate the possible take over of the Kandyan territory, but negotiations proved unfruitful. Following the takeover of the Maritime Provinces from the Dutch, the British transferred some of their Administrators who were English, Welsh, Scottish or Irish and their families from India to Colombo to commence the establishment of “British Rule” in Ceylon.

Among them was the first “Rowlands” to land in Ceylon. The Rowlands’ family settled in Pettah and Henry Rowlands was born on 5 October 1800 and baptized at the Dutch Reformed Church, Wolvendall.

He married Sarah McKilroy on 19 September 1818 at St Peter’s Church, Fort, Colombo.

St Peters Church, Fort, Colombo

He later became a Private in the 1st Ceylon Regiment that was formed in 1802, as a Drummer. The regiment was disbanded in 1827.

Their children were, Sophia Rowlands, born 18 August 1821 and Fredrick Rowlands, born 9 February 1832. British Army records show that Sophia Rowlands got married in 1834.

A second son William Rowlands was born in 1802 and he too became a Private in the 1st Ceylon Regiment as a Bugler.

St. Peter's Church, Fort.
The massive old building with thick walls and large door-windows in the Fort, facing the harbour, was 
formerly the residence of the Dutch Governors, in which all Council Meetings took place 
(see Sir Alexander Swettenham's note in the Report on the Colombo Museum of 1901).
The picture by Reimers in the Rijks Museum, Amsterdam, of which there is a copy in the Colombo 
Museum, is supposed to show the interior when it served this purpose. It was the  “Government House” of 
the first few years of the Hon. Frederick North's rule. According to Captain Percival, the British troops in 
his time (1796-1800) attended Wolvendaal Church, as the church which occupied " the upper end of the 
parade " (the present Gordon Gardens) had never been finished by the Dutch,* and on account of the 
inconvenience to the troops of the march to the Wolvendaal Church "in this sultry climate," Governor 
North was about to roof the Dutch Church in the Fort, but this project was never carried out. Instead, 
Government House, which in 1803 was in the occupation of General Macdowal, was converted into a 
church for their use, no doubt in 1804, on the General's vacating it.
He left Ceylon in March (he was thanked for his services by the Governor on March 1), and in the 
Gazette of March 14 a notice was published announcing that “Divine service will be held at Government 
House on Sunday at 4.30 P.M. until further notice”. The registers, too, date from 1804. This went on until 
January 1, 1806, when the service was transferred to Wolvendaal Church, at 5 p.m. But St. Peter's was 
shortly afterwards (when, I cannot say exactly) reverted to, and became again the official and garrison 
From December 27, 1818, service was held at 11 a.m. instead of at 10, and evening service at 4.30 p.m.
This was changed to 6.30 p.m. from September, 1821, and to 4 p.m. from August, 1836. The church was 
not consecrated until May 22, 1821, when the Bishop of Calcutta, Dr. Thomas Fanshawe Middleton, 
performed the ceremony. Until then it had been known as the “Fort Church”, but from the time of its 
consecration it was called "St. Peter's."
It was closed for repairs from September to December 23, 1832. I imagine that it was at this time, or 
probably earlier during the British period, that the large portico and wide verandah , supported by tall 
pillars, were added to the front. Judging from the portions of the structure at each end of the church 
which have no verandahs, the portico and verandah on each side of it did not form part of the original 
building, and they are in a classical style peculiarly British.
Originally the building must have comprised two separate halls or rooms, and the arcade of six round 
arches, supported by sections of wall, which has made of them a nave and wide aisle, was also probably 
an alteration carried out after the building, or rather a portion of it, was converted into a church.
The first chaplain was the Rev. James Cordiner, author of the book on Ceylon. He arrived in 1799 and left 
in 1804, and was succeeded by the Rev. the Hon. T. J. Twisleton. An assistant of his was the 
Rev. William Hamlyn Heywood, appointed " Chaplain of Brigade to the Forces in Ceylon," March 3, 1804,
 who was lost at sea on his voyage to England in the Jane Duchess of Gordon in March, 1809, and with 
him the Register of Marriages which he was taking to England in order that a copy of it might be entered 
in the Registry Office of the Bishop of London. He was succeeded by the Rev. George Bisset, M.A., 
l8l2-1820 ; and Archdeacon Twisleton, in 1824, by the Ven. J. M. S. Glenie, who was assisted by the 
Rev. the Hon. Edward Finch, 1827-1830 (see No. 103), and succeeded by the Rev. Benjamin Bailey, 1832.
 The registers are not confined to Colombo entries, but contain some of Jaffna, Galle, and Kandy (1817) ; 
they seem to have been personal to the chaplains.
The church possesses a silver gilt communion service, large salver, and candlesticks presented by 
George VI. The salver bears the following inscription: "Hanc pateram et quicquid hie conspicitur argenti 
in usum Ecclesise Taprobanse sacrari voluit Georgii Tertii Britanniarum Regis pia mimificentia 
A. S. MDCCCX. A. R. L."
Several persons have been buried in the church, viz., Henry Matthews, Puisne Justice of the Supreme Court
 and father of Viscount Llandaff ; W. Tolfrey ; Archdeacon Twisleton, who was re-interred here ; 
Captain Dawson R.E. , whose monument is conspicuous at Kadugannawa ; and possibly others. Of 
functions which have taken place at St. Peter's, the first Episcopal visitation was in October, 1816, when 
Bishop Middleton of Calcutta, who had arrived by H. M. cruiser Aurora on the 21st, preached from the 
1st verse of the 62nd chapter of Isaiah, " a discourse which in compass of theological knowledge, skill in 
composition, and beauty of diction, proved the judicious choice that has been made of the first Bishop of 
the Anglo-Indian Church " [Gazette of October 30, 1816).
His next visit was in 1821, when he held a visitation and confirmation on April 27 and 28. On May 22 the 
consecration of the church took place. Bishop Heber held an ordination and confirmation on September 21,
 1825, and Bishop Turner followed in February, 1831, and Bishop Wilson held his first metropolitan 
visitation in January, 1843. There were probably other Episcopal visits in the interval, including those of 
the Bishop of Madras (Corrie).
The first Bishop of Colombo, Dr. Chapman, was enthroned in St. Peter's on November 7, 1845. The walls 
of the church are covered with monuments, which, though none of them can be said to have any artistic 
value, add considerably to its interest. The church itself is not unlike a City church, " wide, cool, and 
stately," flanked by the Grand Oriental Hotel at one end and by the Government offices at the other ; it 
remains the only Dutch building of any pretensions now left in the Fort. 
Another regiment was also formed at the same time, namely, the 2nd Ceylon Regiment “Ramsays” and disbanded in 1821. In 1802, in accordance with the Treaty of Amiens, the littoral regions of Ceylon were ceded to the British. The British Government decided to transfer the maritime provinces of Ceylon completely from the East India Company and place them under the control of the Crown and thus on 1 January 1802, Ceylon was attached to the dominions of Great Britain. In April of the same year, through the machinations of Pilima Talauve, serious aggression was made on British subjects. The first Governor of British Ceylon, Fredric North (1798-1805) made elaborate plans to establish the Malay Regiment, modeled on the Sepoy Regiments of India. The Malays were dressed for the first time in Scarlet and White Uniform of a regular regiment of infantry. On 25 April 1801, the regiment was increased to ten Company’s by recruitment of former Dutch Malays from St Helena and transferred to the British regular army as a light infantry corps, also know by the name of “Colonel’. Thus was born the Malay Ceylon Regiment, the first ever Malay Regiment to be formed and receive the Queen’s Colours in 1802. Their Colonel was General Sir Josiah Champagne, GCH.

The British not only ‘martialised’ the Malays to serve in their native army, but also took firm steps to strengthen the numbers of Malays in Ceylon by inviting Malay families from the areas in the Peninsular which were under their control.

British Officer

In 1802, the Sultan of Kedah had sent a contingent of his Malay subjects to serve in Ceylon who were also joined by a number of Malays from Penang, Malacca and Singapore. Special military schools were founded to teach the soldiers and their children to be proficient in both Malay and English. A special library for the soldiers lent books, publications and manuscripts in Malay.

On 31st January 1803, hostilities against the King of Kandy commenced. The British dispatched two separate forces into Kandyan territory, one under General Hay Macdowell commanding a detachment from Colombo and the other under Colonel Barbut from Trincomalee. These included the Malay Ceylon Regiment and the all Sinhalese 2nd Ceylon Regiment and the mixed Malay Sinhalese 1st Ceylon Regiment. The British also discovered that the Ruler of Kandy also had his own Malay army, known as ‘Padikara Peruwa’ (paid levies - mercenaries), originally formed by the Sinhalese Kandyan Ruler Kirthi Sri Rajasinghe (1747-82). In 1803 there were nearly 400 of them who had run away from Dutch oppression into Kandy and welcomed in the Kandy Court, some of whom became the King’s bodyguards. Their chief was decorated with the highest title of ‘Muhandiram’ that was reserved for local chieftains. Despite early successes the army soon suffered a number of setbacks. The Chief Minister responsible for guiding the British into Kandy had greatly inflated the extent of the King’s unpopularity and the resistance proved fierce. The two divisions of the British Army took possession of Kandy on 21st February 1803. Muttuswami, the fugitive Prince was proclaimed King by the British on 8th March. Pilima Talauve and Governor North met at Dambadeniya on 3rd May, where Pilima Talauve renewed his treacherous overtures, which were again rejected. A Malay Prince named Sangunglo, who escaped to Kandy, was the Commander of the Malay army in the Kandyan Kingdom.

Kandyan Chief

The brave Sangunglo created havoc by his daring exploits against the British army who advanced to Senkadagala, into the heart of the Kandyan capital during this war. He fought bravely, engaged in hand to hand combat, but lost his life in the battle at the hands of the British Commander, Major Davy. The Kandyan forces resorted to fighting a guerilla war and after disease ravaged the garrison left behind and a number of Sinhalese and Malay soldiers defected to the Kandyans, including a soldier of Malay descent named ‘William O’Deen” who a year later became the first Ceylonese to be exiled to Australia, the Kandyans counter attacked and on the 24th June, seized Senkadagala. Barbut was taken prisoner and executed and after Major Davie capitulated, he was allowed to retire his troops and Muttuswami as far as Lewella. On 25th June Muttuswami was delivered up at the desire of the Kandyans and put to death. On the 26th June, the retreating British troops were massacred on the banks of the flooding Mahaveli River, with the exception of Major Davie and Corporal George Barnsley of the 19th Infantry whom the King spared. Captain D.Humphreys and another Officer escaped, leaving only four survivors. This eventually brought victory to the Kandyan King, Sri Wickrema Rajasinghe. Major Davie died in Kandy in captivity in 1812. Following the British defeat in Kandy, their Malay Commanders, Princes Nuruddin and Saifuddin were captured and brought before the Kandyan King. Even though they refused to prostate themselves in front of the King in the manner of customary obeisance, the King offered them a position as his own commanders and to become princes among his Malay subjects. The princely brothers refused the offer, explaining that they had taken an oath to the King of England and the acceptance of his offer was tantamount to treachery. The Malay princes refused to budge even under torture. The enraged King put them to death and threw their bodies in the forest to be eaten by wild animals. The ill treatment of their princes and the denial of a decent Muslim burial sent a chilling message to the rest of his Malay subjects who had served and fought for him loyally.

Governor North was especially aggrieved to learn about the sacrifice and martyrdom of the princes and set up a special Malay Committee to compensate the widows of the slain soldiers. A general rebellion erupted in British occupied territory on hearing of the Kandyan invasion, but was quickly suppressed.

Malay Man

Governor North maintained pressure on the Kandyan frontier with numerous attacks and in 1804 dispatched a force under Captain Arthur Johnson towards Senkadagala and once again the Kandyans defeated the British in the mountainous terrain they called home. The Kandyans emboldened by their successes, captured Katuwana a frontier town. This and the 1803 victory were to be the Kandyan’s last meaningful successes. In February 1804, equipped with a handful of captured six pound cannon the Kandyan army advanced through the mountain passes as far as the city of Hanwella where the army was utterly routed by superior British firepower under the command of Captain Pollock, forcing them back into the mountains.

The second Governor, Thomas Maitland (1805-1811) became prejudiced against the Malays, treating them as scapegoats for the defeat of the British. His attempts to abolish the Malay Regiment failed due to resistance from the community and the military officials. Nonetheless, he forcibly repatriated more than 300 Malay royal exiles and their families to their original homes, as they were a pecuniary burden on the Government. In 1805 the 3rd Ceylon Regiment “Baillies” was formed under the command of Colonel Charles Baillie and was disbanded in 1817. In 1807, the Ceylon Malay Regiment was transferred to the 1st Ceylon Regiment and in 1812, after the British conquest of Java; recruitment was extended to the Javanese.

Malay Girl

In 1810 the King removed the powerful Pilima Talauve from the position of Chief Minister (1st Adigar). The next year Pilima Talauve rebelled and on his capture in 1812, was beheaded for a conspiracy against the Kandyan King and he was succeeded by Ehelapola as First Adigar or Chief Minister. The next Governor, Robert Brownrigg (1812-1818), having an eye on annexing the last Sinhalese Kingdom of Kandy, boosted the number of Malay settlers. In 1813, his agent Captain de Bussche visited Lieutenant Governor Stamford Raffles in Java requesting help to enlist Javanese soldiers. A reluctant Lieutenant Governor Raffles argued that “the Javanese were needed more for agricultural pursuits than for becoming soldiers”. Yet, he contacted his friend the Raja of Madura. As a result 412 fine soldiers- accompanied by 214 women and 208 children, mostly Sumananpers from the island of Madura left for Ceylon from the Javanese port of Surabaya. In June 1814, the 1st Ceylon Regiment was converted to light infantry with a rifle company. During the same year Ehalapola, ex-Chief Minister rebelled against the Kandyan King and sought refuge at Colombo. In May, the King had Ehelapola’s wife and four children barbarously butchered in Kandy. Molligoda was appointed Adigar. In 1815, the men of the 73rd Regiment accompanied by their women and children were returned from Van Diemen’s Land for a seven year tour of duty in Ceylon. Initially this involved normal garrison duties, but in 1815 the regiment was called upon to play an important role in the final overthrow of the Kingdom of Kandy.

In 1815, as the Kandyan King had become notoriously paranoid and engaged in cruel acts against his own people, his discontented Malay subjects decided to turn against him and he lost their support. The construction of the Kandy Lake in 1807 by the King, despite its beauty was a deeply unpopular project as it served no practical purpose as there were no paddy fields that required irrigation and was purely ornamental.

Kandy Lake

War was declared against the King of Kandy and hostilities began on 10th January 1815. British troops entered Kandyan territory on 14th February and the King of Kandy was taken prisoner in a cave near the Medamahanuwara Gap and conveyed to Kandy by Ekneligoda Dissawa and Lieut-Colonel Hook on 18th February. Whereas the British in 1805 had been forced to contend with largely hostile native nobility, in the second Kandyan War of 1815, it was this same nobility who essentially invited the British into Kandy and supported their overthrow of Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe. The Convention for establishing British Government in the Kandyan Province concluded on 2nd March.

The centuries (2,357 years) old Kandyan Monarchic rule ended with Sri Vikrama Rajasinghe and the British became masters of the whole of Ceylon.

Queen's Bathing Pavilion on Kandy Lake

On 24th January 1816, the King of Kandy and his family were sent into exile to Madras, in India and the Government of the Colony was administered by a Governor appointed by the Colonial Secretary, assisted by a Council composed entirely of European civil and military servants who from their tenure of office were totally subservient to the will of the Governor.

More Malays were encouraged to immigrate to Ceylon with their families and paid bounty money. Aristocratic families were especially welcomed, enjoying higher ranks in service depending on the number of followers they brought along. A further batch of 228 Javanese from Semarang and Gresik off the northern coast of Java arrived in 1816.

Unfortunately, discontent with the Brirtish gradually germinated in the minds of the Kandyan Nobility.

Kandyan Nobility and servants

Governor Sir Robert Browrigg reneged on the promise of raising Ehelepola Maha Nilame to the vacant throne of Kandy. Governor Brownrigg also betrayed the terms of the Kandyan Convention, particularly in relation to Buddhism. The natives wanted a King to whom they could prostrate and depend on royal patronage in their religious and social undertakings, not a king thousand miles away in England, ruling through delegated authority of the Ceylon Regiment, whose recruitment was largely restricted to Malays, Indian Sepoys, and African Kaffirs, while the British and Burghers were appointed as officers.

From time to time the inhabitants would query the British on when they hoped to return to the Maritime Provinces. They said “You have now deposed the King and nothing more is required – you may leave us”. Two major events then caused a revolt among the populace. The first occurred sometime in June 1816, when Madugalle Uda Gabada Nilame, without the knowledge of the British Resident in Kandy, John D’Oyly, secretly proposed to the High Priest about the removal of the Sacred Tooth Relic from Kandy. The second took place in September 1816, when he publicly sent offerings and prayers to the deities at Bintenne and Kataragama, for the downfall of the rulers and the re-establishment of the King. The British considered these actions as amounting to high treason.

Temple of the Sacred Tooth - Kandy

On the charges being proven by a Court comprising both British Officers and Kandyan Chiefs, Madugalle was dismissed from office and dispatched to Colombo under close arrest without being given the opportunity to say farewell to his family. His residence was burnt on the Governor’s orders and his other possessions were confiscated and sold. Another event was the appointment of Haji Mohandiram, a Moorman of Wallasse, as Chief of the Transport (Madigey) Department, a position usually held by a group of Kandyan families. There were other reasons as well. The aristocracy and the Buddhist priests were accustomed to receiving respect from persons who interacted with them. However, during British rule a common soldier used to pass by a Kandyan Chief giving hardly any attention as he would any other person. They treated people of all levels alike. Such actions, though committed unconsciously, offended the Kandyan Chiefs and priests.

In 1817, Haji Mohandiram was captured by Wilbawe a former priest when he was sent by Sylvester Wilson, the Government Agent at Badulla to investigate an uprising in the Uva Wellasse region and put to death.

Statute of Keppetipola

On hearing of the fate of Haji Mohandiram, Sylvester Wilson, on 16th October 1817, with an armed escort of twenty four Malay and Javanese soldiers under the command of Lieu-Newman set off to investigate. They were attacked by some hundred armed rebels and Wilson was killed. His head was decapitated o the orders of Wilbawe and mounted on a stake. A proclamation from the Pretender Wilbawe was suspended from a tree, announcing himself as the King and enjoining his subjects to put to death every white man. The British Resident in Kandy, John D’Oyly, thoroughly alarmed by this tragedy, dispatched Keppetipola Dissawe, the Warrior Dissawe of Uva, to Badulla with instructions to crush the rebels and restore law and order in his district. After meeting with the rebels, Keppetipola and his five hundred men joined the rebels and returned all his arms and ammunition to the British. The defection of this influential and highly placed aristocrat, connected to all the leading families in the kingdom, had a profound effect on the British and Kandyan Chiefs and the people. Governor Brownrigg who was on circuit in Trincomalee, received the bad news and immediately hastened to Kandy where he set up a field-headquarters and arranged a strong military action. In the meantime, Wilbawe was crowned king with due pomp and ceremony, a Palace was built in Diyabeteme Wela. Keppetipola was appointed as first Adigar, as well as other officials were also appointed and then told to make war against the British under the leadership of the respective chiefs. The Kandyans, acknowledging British superiority in arms and firepower, resorted to a guerrilla war and constantly harrased British patrols and supply columns transversing narrow jungle paths. Gradually, the rebellion began spilling into other provinces and more and more chiefs threw in their lot with Keppetipola. Only four Kandyan chiefs did not support the rebellion. Some rebellious Chief’s were captured and Ehelapola was banished to Mauritius.

British Officer and Bugler

Governor Brownrigg issued a Proclamation on 1 January 1818 that named seventeen persons; including Keppetipola as being engaged in promoting rebellion and war against His Majesties Forces and that they were “Rebels, Outlaws and Enemies of the British.” Their lands and properties were to be confiscated by the Crown. But the indigenous people saw them as freedom fighters waging war to eject the British colonials who had subjugated their land. Marshall Law was proclaimed on 21st February in the Kandyan Provinces and Governor Brownrigg requested the British Governor of Madras for reinforcements, which the Madras government dispatched in the form of two battalions; one European infantry and the other Sepoys of the Madras Native Infantry. These soldiers disembarked in Trincomalee and marched to Badulla. Together with the British army in Ceylon, comprised of Europeans, Javanese, Malay and African troops they gained the upper hand whilst the rebel leaders showed signs of wavering. The men of the 73rd Regiment were caught up in this brutal war of attrition and atrocity in the Southern Highlands of Uva and the death toll within the regiment, mainly from tropical diseases escalated very rapidly and many of those men who had served in Australia were buried in Ceylon – except for a lucky few who returned to Australia later as pensioners and /or free settlers. The 19th Regiment was also involved in the Kandyan wars, including the massacre of 1803 and during 24 years in Ceylon the regiment lost 50 officers and 1,498 men from a range of causes. Governor Brownrigg promised leniency if the rebels surrendered before a deadline of 20 September 1818. Food shortages caused by the rice fields not being cultivated for several seasons and the systematic burning of property resulted in the gradual surrender of rebel chiefs and their men to take advantage of a pardon granted by the Governor. Keppetipola fled to Anuradhapura, but was captured by Colonel Fraser. The Sacred Tooth Relic that was with Madugalle also fell into the hands of the British in the jungles of Elahera. Death sentences were passed on both Keppetipola and Madugalle and they were executed by decapitation. Thus ended the Uva Rebellion of 1817- 1818. Wilbawe escaped into the jungles and lived with the Veddahs until his capture in 1830, 12 years after the rebellion and released with out punishment because of the time lapse.

In 1818, the 1st Ceylon Regiment (Light Infantry) was formed and in 1820 converted to rifle corps; recruitment was opened to sons of former African slaves of 3rd Ceylon Regiment and the 4th Regiment.

In 1822, the Ceylon Regiment (Rifleman) was formed and on 25 June 1827 became the Ceylon Rifle Regiment. During the period of its existence the uniform was made up of green facings: black headdress: shako (Malay and African coys), turban (Sinhalese coys).

Model of Ceylon Malay Rifle Regiment

That same year, the Bridge of Boats near Colombo was completed.

Model of Rifle Regiment Band

On 1 April 1826, William Rowlands joined the Ceylon Regiment (Riflemen) as a Bugler. Three weeks prior to his enlistment, William Rowlands married Maria Laurence,  on 6th March 1826, in St Paul’s Church, Pettah, Colombo.

The entry in the Register of marriages – Register No: 11, 1824 to 1827 (Bound Volume) shows that they were married by Licence by A.Armour; the Witnesses were D.Humphreys (one of the survivors of the 1803 Kandyan War) and Petronella Humphreys.

On 15th March 1827 in St Paul’s Pettah, William and Maria’s first child, a son, John Henry Rowlands was baptized.

The regiment was then transferred to Kandy. It was during this period with the Ceylon Rifle Regiment, that Private (No.1113) William Rowlands came to know Lt-Col Henry.C.Bird who was in command of the 16th Regiment of Foot “Bedfordshire” that was formed in 1819. Colonel Henry Bird was also the Commandant of Kandy. On his death in 1829, Lt-Col Bird’s son – Capt H.C.Byrde, who had reverted to the original spelling of the family name, arrived in Ceylon and became commander of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment that had been formed in 1826. The friendship with the father continued with his son.

In 1832 William and Maria’s second child, a son, Richard William Rowlands was born in Kandy. An year later when they were in Colombo he was baptized.

The Register of Baptisms at the Church of St Paul, Colombo – Register No: 06/B-05, Entry No: 281 indicates that on 13th October 1833, he was baptised in Colombo.
Date of Birth = 19th September 1832.
Father’s Name = Bugler William Rowlands.
Mother’s Name = Maria.
Who were married at Colombo March 1826.
Officiating Clergy = J.Horsford.
Sponsors = 1. John Wilhelmus don
2. Bugler James Eaton
3. Mary Fonsago.

British Wedding Party in Ceylon

A third son, Charles Benjamin Rowlands was baptized on 28th September 1840, in Kandy.

C.B.Rowlands became an Apothecary or Chemist. He married Grace Pauline Shaw on 27th September 1873 in Kandy, the name of their eldest son being Reginald Charles Waldemare Rowlands; nicknamed ‘Waldy’ was born on 29 September 1874.

The other children were:-
Estella Grace Alison Rowlands, born 17 November 1875,
May Jemina Gwendoline Rowlands, born 7 January 1877,
Frances Clarissa Millicent Rowlands, born 13 June 1878,
Oswald Charles Gordon Rowlands, born 22 January 1881,
Charles Bertram Rowlands, born 14 March 1882,
Una Florence Pearl Rowlands, born 14 January 1885,
Charles Benjamin Rowlands, born 29 September 1887,
Allen Charles Rowlands, born 1889.

The advertisement section of the Ferguson’s Directory shows the following products that would have been imported from England and sold in the Kandy Dispensary of C.B.Rowlands.
Rowlands’ Magassar Oil – elegant, fragrant, growth restoring, preserving and beautifying human hair.

Rowlands’ Kalydor – for improving and beautifying the skin and complexion.
Rowlands’ Odonto – a dentrifice – whitens the teeth, strengthens gums and imparts freshness of breath.

The friendship between William Rowlands and Capt Byrde continued until William was discharged from the regiment on 31 July 1850 at the age of 48 having survived the Kandyan wars.

The British capture of the Kingdom of Kandy marked not only the end of the 400 year old Kingdom of Kandy, but also of all native political independence. Kandy, as a result of its geographical and political isolation had developed unique cultural and social structures that were now subject to the intense pressures of subjugation and underwent immense upheaval and change.

The opportunity for the Colony of Ceylon to become an economically independent entity now presented the Government of Ceylon with the ability to commence a plantation economy similar to those started in the other British Colony’s of India, the West Indies, Africa and the Americas.

Note: - 

Colombo Cemetery - Grave No. IM/666 – Purchased by C.B.Rowlands (Charles Benjamin.Jnr or his brother Charles Bertram ). This grave is maintained by one R.H.Rowlands. Mr R.C.W. (Reginald Charles Waldemar Rowlands is buried in this grave. Born 29th September 1874, Died age 69 (1943).

The records of Kabristan Archives”Graveyards in Ceylon – Kandy Region Vol IV”, page 34 shows that Charles Benjamin Rowlands died on 28th April 1918, aged 78 years and is buried in the Mahayaya Protestant Cemetery, Kandy together with his wife Grace Pauline Rowlands who died on 16th November 1924 and a child who died on 25th October 1881 and another child Aileen Rowlands who died on 27th June 1898.

The Burial Plot Register of the Mahayaya Cemetery, Kandy on Page 37of the above, also shows that C.B.Rowlands bought a grave plot for Charles G Rowlands on 20th January 1884.

The Anglican Burial Register for Colombo General Cemetery indicates that Allen Charles Rowlands, the youngest son of Charles Benjamin and Grace Pauline Rowlands, died in 1913, aged 25 and was buried on 20th February 1913 in Grave No: 1893.

A letter from PRO of data taken from the MusterBooks and Pay Lists of the CRR (W.O.12/10601-10626) indicates that William Rowlands enlisted in Ceylon on 1st April 1826 and was discharged on 31st July 1850. His place of birth is recorded as Colombo. 

Principal events in Ceylon during the first 20 years of British Rule in the period 1795 to 1815, until 2,357 years of Sinhalese Independence was finally extinguished are listed below.
Surrender of Trincomalee to the British…26th August;  Jaffnapatam....28th September; Mannar...5th October; Calpentyn...5th November.
Robert Andrews sent on an Embassy to Kandy…August.
Colombo surrendered to the British by capitulation..19th February. Maritime Ceylon governed from Madras.
The first Pearl Fishery under the British Government yielded 60,000 pounds sterling. Migastenna and Dengamuwa Disawas go to Madras on an Embassy to the English.
Pearl Fishery produced 107,000 pounds sterling.
A Committee for Investigating the state of revenue and other important matters in the island of Ceylon appointed....10th June.
Robert Andrews second Embassy to Kandy…July.
Hon.F.North (afterwards Earl of Guilford) Governor of Ceylon.
Rajadhi Raja Sinha having died, Sri Wikrama Raja Sinha was raised to the Kandyan throne by the Prime Minister, Pilima Talawa; the Queen’s brother, Muttuswamy escapes to Jaffna.
Frederic North and Pilima Talawa meet at Sitawaka..February. (He seeks assistance from the British to depose the reining king, but fails).
The Dutch Governor, Van Angelbeck died at Colombo...3rd September.
Pilima Talawa anxious to become king...December.
First Botanical Garden established by Governor North at Ortafula, Peliyagoda, on the Kelani. Joseph Joinville being Curator.
The first English Seminary for the indigenous population founded in Colombo..15th December.
Frederic North and Pilima Talawa meet again at Sitawaka...January.
Murrian carries off four fifths of the cattle in the Northern Province.
General Macdowall sent as Ambassador to the king...19th March.
Ceylon made a Crown Colony..1st January.
A deputation of five Buddhist monks leaves Ceylon with Welitara Gnana Wimala Tissa Thero for Amarapura, Burma for Upasampada Ordination.
Supreme Court of Judicature instituted..April.
Maritime Ceylon, by the Peace of Amiens, attached to the dominions of Great Britain. The publication of the “Ceylon Government Gazette” commenced..15th March.
Through the machinations of Pilima Talawa, serious aggressions made on British subjects..April.
Hostilities against the King of Kandy commenced..31st January.
General Macdowall commanding a detachment sent from Colombo and Colonel Barbut one from Trincomalee.
Two divisions of the British Army take possession of Kandy..1st February.
 Muttuswamy, the fugitive Prince, proclaimed King by the British..8th March.
Pilima Talawa and Governor North have an interview at Dambadeniya, when Pilima Talawa made a convention with North..3rd May.
Kandyans attack the British Garrison in Kandy under Major Davie who capitulates and is allowed to retire with the troops and Muttuswamy as far as Lewella..24th June. Muttuswamy is delivered up the desire of the Kandyans and put to death.
Massacre of all troops with the exception of Major Davie and Corporal Bumley whom the King spared and Major Humphreys and another officer who escaped..26th June. (Another account says only one soldier besides Major Davie was spared or escaped). Desultory warfare.
Three London Missionaries arrive in Ceylon and are stationed at Galle, Matara and Jaffna; but they soon after leave the island, save Rev.Mr.Palmer, who eventually becomes Minister of Wolvendal Church.
Captian Johnston marches with 300 men from Trincomalee to Kandy, returning safety..September.
The Kandyans invade the British territory and are repulsed with great loss at Hanwella by Captain Pollock..February.
Sir Thomas Maitland, Governor….July.
Roman Catholics relieved of the restrictions imposed upon them by the Dutch..June.
The Kandyan King constructs the lake at Kandy.
Muhammidan Laws sanctioned by the Council..5th August.
Bazaar tax established.
A new Charter of Justice, granting trial by Jury, promulgated..16th March.
 Pilma Talawa beheaded for a conspiracy against the Kandyan King, he is succeeded by Ehelapola as First Adigar or Prime Minister.  Major Davie dies in captivity in Kandy.
General Robert Brownrigg, Governor..March.
Bazaar tax repealed..10th August.
The remains of the Dutch Governors and of their families, buried in the Fort, removed and deposited in the Wolvendal Church..September.
Ehelapola, ex-Minister, rebels against the Kandyan King and takes refuge at Colombo; his wife and four children are barbarously butchered at Kandy in May. Molligoda succeeds him.
 Ehelapola received by the Governor at Mount Lavinia.
Ten traders from British territory tortured and mutilated by the officers of the King of Kandy..November.
War declared against the King of Kandy and hostilities commenced..10th January.
British troops enter the Kandyan territory..14th February.
The Kandyan King taken prisoner in a cave near Medamahanuwa Gap and conveyed to Kandy by Ekneligoda Dissawa and Lieut-Colonel Hook..18th February.
 Convention for establishing British Government in the Kandyan Provinces concluded..2nd March.

Sinhalese independence finally extinguished, after lasting more or less for 2,357 years.

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