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Author Topic: Adisham: Shrouded in mist and history  (Read 1113 times)
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« on: October 11, 2010, 03:48:00 AM »

Adisham: Shrouded in mist and history
By Lankika de Livera
10 October 2010


On ten acres of a mountain in Haputale lies a famous Tudor and Jacobean style English manor. It was the retreat and country residence of a homesick Englishman in this country who named it “Adisham” after the Kentish village where he was born.

With its sprawling lawns, blossoming gardens and a vista of the misty and undulating mountain terrain of Haputale, Adisham stands as testimony to a bygone era of grandeur and the lifestyle of the British Plantation Raj. Feasting on the fruit trees in the garden are a host of exotic birds and butterflies – a delight to any one appreciative of nature.

Adisham dates back to 1931. Sir Thomas Villiers, a Britisher who, as a 17-year-old ran away from home with 10 sterling pounds in his pocket, boarded a ship transporting tea which was bound for Ceylon and arrived here in 1887. His first job was as a creeper (trainee planter) on Elbedde Estate, Bogawantalawa. He married the daughter of a tea planter in 1896 and travelled to Brazil. Four years later he was back in Ceylon and started his own tea estate which is the Dickoya Group today. Soon after he joined the firm George Steuarts and rose to become its Chairman till his retirement in 1948.

His dream country home was built in 1931. All the stone used to build this edifice had been brought from England.

After Sri Lanka’s independence in 1948, there was an exodus of Britishers and Sir Thomas Villiers also returned to England. The manor house was bought over by Wimala Wijewardene. It changed hands in 1960 when the Roman Catholic Church bought it for the St. Benedict’s Monastery, which it is presently.

The original library of Sir Thomas Villers is still intact like the rest of the house with the fireplace and mantelpiece etc. Among the collection of books in the library are some said to be some over 500 years old.

“Adisham” sits atop a hill amidst the rose garden, the trees and the orchard, within the precincts of the Thangamalai Sanctuary. The vista from here is of the breathtaking Haputale mountains with shrouds of mist wafting in, amidst the cool breeze, birds chirping and stone tablets with soul-searching quotations painted on them. Presently it is run by the Catholic church and is open to day visitors and to a few in-house guests. It is more suited to people appreciative of a quiet spiritual experience, in a place of peace, solitude and beauty.

The priests who manage Adisham generate an income from the fruits of the orchard. The Adisham strawberry jam, peach preserve, Nelli in syrup, orange marmalade, ginger and mango and other cordials have brisk business from holiday-makers to the hills. The building which houses the shop was once the stables in the bygone days.

However, if one is to experience the tranquil atmosphere of Adisham, try to be there at least five minutes before 9 a.m. and be one of the first visitors to go in. It gets very crowded later in the day. To spend a holiday here, it is advisable to book a room on weekdays to avoid the holiday visitors.

In this area is another place of interest which offers a vista of the mountains which will leave one spell-bound. On a very high elevation in the Dambatenna Estate is “Lipton’s Seat”, for which the turn off is from the Haputale junction by the trishaw stand in town. It takes about a half hour drive of 15 km of mountain terrain and a few hairpin bends to get there. The view is similar to World’s End in Horton Plains.

This estate is where Sir Thomas J. Lipton began his tea business by selling teas produced here. Thus the vantage point on an elevation of 1, 970 metres above sea level is named “Lipton’s Seat”.

Another place of interest in the vicinity is the Diyaluma waterfall, cascading 171 metres down the rocky cliff by the side of the Beragala-Wellawaya Road at the 206th km post.

Source: TheSundayTimes.lk http://www.sundaytimes.lk/101010/Magazine/sundaytimesmagazine_03.html
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