A Word About Adisham

adisA four km drive from Haputale will lead you to Adisham, a monastery run by Benedictine Monks. Wrapped in the tranquility of the misty hills, Adisham Bungalow attracts every eye that falls on it. The pages of history reveal that the creator of this enthralling place is Sir Thomas Lister Villiers. Sir Thomas Lister Villiers was born in 1869 in Adisham, an ancient village which lies in the hollow of the Kent country side. He was the son of Reverend Prebendary Henry Montegu Villiers who belonged to Clarendon family and his mother was Lady Victoria Russell the daughter of (Grandfather of Sir Thomas Lister Villiers) who was twice the prime minister of Britain (1846 – 52, & 1865 – 66). As leader of the Whig party, he was most responsible for changing its name to the Liberal Party.

 

 

 

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History Of Adisham

He also strongly opposed the employment of children as domestic servants and maintained that the state had an obligation to provide all children with an education so that they could improve their position in life. Sir Thomas also appealed to the members to support the introduction of adult franchise unanimously. He was also among those who wanted adultery made a criminal offence. During that time when the question of establishing a non-residential university in Colombo or a residential university in Kandy arose, Sir Thomas was a member of this commission. He finally selected the new Peradeniya Estate for a residential university.

He was for several years the Trustee for the Church of England. He was both a parishioner and a benefactor of St. Michael’s Church Polwatte. He was also the patron of St. Michael’s Sports Club. Expanding his services to this small island nation he wrote three books which include a book on some tea industry pioneers published in 1951. The youth who stepped into Ceylon converted into a man of knowledge and of great service and returned to the United Kingdom at the age of 82. There he entered his second marriage with a Ceylonese called Marjorie Keyt who nursed Sir Thomas throughout an illness he suffered. She also spent a part of her life as his secretary cum companion before uniting with him in marriage. She was a daughter of Edwin Keyt of Colombo. The wedding took place in the fashionable London Church of St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge where Sir Thomas’ father had once being the vicar.

Sir Thomas Lister Villiers gained his education at Sherborne School. After completing his studies he chose to come to Ceylon as a trainee on Elbedde Estate, Bogawantalawa. Thus, a young man with just 10 pounds in his pocket began building his life here in Ceylon. In 1896 Thomas Villiers married Evelyn Hope, a daughter of the planter W. H. Walker of Punduloya North. The wedding took place at the Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya. Evelyn Hope was a keen painter and her paintings decorate Adisham walls even at present. She gave birth to their first son lieutenant Henry Lister Villiers in 1897, who was later killed in action on 4th February 1917. Their second son was commander Thomas Hyde Villiers who was born on 15th January 1902 and died in 1955

corriSir Thomas was always aware of his responsibilities and thus was in touch with the directors at of George Stuarts until his very last days. In the late fifties Sir Thomas wrote a letter to the Wages Commission mentioning that it was very necessary to introduce weekly wages in Ceylon. After enjoying a healthy and a vigorous life Sir Thomas Villiers passed away on December 21st  in 1959. The funeral service took place at St. Paul’s Knights bridge while the cremation was held at Pulury Vale. Lady Villiers also died in London in 1964 at the age of 60.

The Villiers presence in Ceylon concluded but their pleasant memories and the life story is carved in every stone that holds up the Adisham bungalow in Haputale.It was while he was chairman of George Steuarts that Sir Thomas commenced building his dream home in the country. He selected a peaceful site at Haputale, surrounded by beautiful forest called Tangamalai which means Golden Hills. The piece of land was alienated because of its 5,000 feet elevation. Yet it was not a barrier for Sir Thomas. A road was cut through the forest to pave the way to reach the land which commanded views across hills and valleys and the highest mountain ranges of Ceylon. On a clear day, a sightseer will be privileged to view Totapolakanda, Hakgala, Piduruthalagala, the Uda Pussellawa range of mountains known as the sleeping warrior, Diyatalawa Army Camp, Namunukula and numerous other mountains which stretch out for miles on end. The building and garden are on ten acres on land which formed a part of the forest reserve. Cutting the site in preparation for the building commenced in 1929.

Sir Thomas Lister Villiers gained his education at Sherborne School. After completing his studies he chose to come to Ceylon as a trainee on Elbedde Estate, Bogawantalawa. Thus, a young man with just 10 pounds in his pocket began building his life here in Ceylon. In 1896 Thomas Villiers married Evelyn Hope, a daughter of the planter W. H. Walker of Punduloya North. The wedding took place at the Holy Trinity Church, Nuwara Eliya. Evelyn Hope was a keen painter and her paintings decorate Adisham walls even at present. She gave birth to their first son lieutenant Henry Lister Villiers in 1897, who was later killed in action on 4th February 1917. Their second son was commander Thomas Hyde Villiers who was born on 15th January 1902 and died in 1955

The house was designed in the Tudor style, on the lines of Leeds Castle in Kent, with stout granite walls of locally quarried stone, long, narrow turret windows and chimneys. It looked in every detail an Elizabethan country mansion flowing in the memories of Sir Thomas Villiers’ well loved home in Kent and his childhood memories. The house gave an onlooker a sense solidity, permanence and stability.

boilerSir Thomas Villiers spared no expense to ensure that his country home was luxurious in its appointments. The roof was covered with flat Burma teak shingles.  The doors, windows, paneling, staircase and floors were also of Burma teak. The spacious rooms of the house contain handsome fireplaces to keep the inhabitants warm. The wind turbines fixed on the roof sent cold wind down to the fire places amazingly heating up the room. The regency clock though it has stopped ticking stands in splendor on the mantelpiece of the fireplace with its gleaming fire irons.

These steps pave way to the elaborate pillared landing on the main staircase adorned by portraits of his relatives, the Clarendons and the Dukes of Bedford. The four stout English oaks add grandeur to the house. It is said that Indian masons were brought down and employed to do the stone work of the building.

The house was designed in the Tudor style, on the lines of Leeds Castle in Kent, with stout granite walls of locally quarried stone, long, narrow turret windows and chimneys. It looked in every detail an Elizabethan country mansion flowing in the memories of Sir Thomas Villiers’ well loved home in Kent and his childhood memories. The house gave an onlooker a sense solidity, permanence and stability.

Sir Thomas Villiers spared no expense to ensure that his country home was luxurious in its appointments. The roof was covered with flat Burma teak shingles.  The doors, windows, paneling, staircase and floors were also of Burma teak. The spacious rooms of the house contain handsome fireplaces to keep the inhabitants warm. The wind turbines fixed on the roof sent cold wind down to the fire places amazingly heating up the room. The regency clock though it has stopped ticking stands in splendor on the mantelpiece of the fireplace with its gleaming fire irons.

These steps pave way to the elaborate pillared landing on the main staircase adorned by portraits of his relatives, the Clarendons and the Dukes of Bedford. The four stout English oaks add grandeur to the house. It is said that Indian masons were brought down and employed to do the stone work of the building.

blueroomThe rooms of the house are many in numbers. The rooms occupied by Sir Thomas Villiers and Lady Villiers, the `Blue Room’ and the `Horse Shoe Room’ are beautifully done and spacious. This is the room of Sir Thomas Villiers which is preserved in every detail. Villiers imported fine period furniture, linen, carpets, porcelain, silver, and glassware from England for his home.

An entire wing of the building commands a breathtakingly panoramic view of the picturesque Uva valley. The drawing room which is open to the visitors has been preserved through the many years that paased. David Paynter’s study of Sir Thomas looks down from above the William IV furniture even if the Lancashire broadlooms on the chairs and Ax Minister Carpets have aged gently. The Dutch marquetry card table and the Georgian gate-legged table set for tea with Wedgewood jasper china enhance the beauty and the majesty of this antique house. The library furnished with excellent books is another treasure of Adisham. The piles of books on various subjects are carefully conserved in the cupboards. This is the safe of Sir Thomas Villiers. The door of the safe is carved of stone.

A series of fifteen views in Ceylon, Illustrative of Sir. J.E. Tennent’s work, from the sketches made on the spot by Captain C.O. Brien. 1864

The monastery has also opened out the main sitting room and the room which was originally the library of Sir Thomas Villiers for the benefit of the many sightseers. Sir Thomas and Lady Villiers became residents of this majestic mansion in 1931. The building behind the engine room has been used as an aviary by Lady Villiers who had collections of various birds. Twenty five oil and water-colours paintings done by Lady Villiers mostly of marine subjects adorn Adisham walls at present.

Another unique feature at Adisham is its water system. The water which is pumped from the hillside is sent through the pipes from the boiler room even to the upper floors of the building without the use of a single motor.

corridoThe house is not the only attraction at Adisham. It is surrounded by beautiful orchards that yield English fruit and spacious lawns. The garden lay-out is also British and, as in the house, the incomparable scenery is used to the best effect. The terraced lawns, flowerbeds and orchard, like the drawing room, study, library, dining room and bedrooms, look out on lofty mountain ranges, all between 1,800 and 2,100m above sea level, etched sharply on the skyline to form a curious outline called the Sleeping Warrior. English tea and multi-coloured cabbage roses bloom on the lawns adding beauty to the surrounding. Albertines and honeysuckle climbed over the porches and windows while strawberries, apples and Victoria plums ripe in the cool mountain air and the tropical sunshine. The chirping of the green barbets, blue magpies, paradise flycatchers, horn bills and a host of other birds will enchant the visitors to Adisham.

Adisham entertained the social elite of Ceylon at that time. Its house parties included the governor and distinguished visitors to the island. Lady Villiers was also a gracious and a gentle person and turned out to be a charming hostess for all her visitors.

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