ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 33
Funday Times- Our Heritage funday times logo

Where the first rubber seedlings were grown

Rubber trees at Henaratgoda Gardens

Henaratgoda Gardens, the not so well known botanical gardens in Sri Lanka due to the dominance of Peradeniya and Hakgala Gardens, were established 130 years ago. The recorded date is January 15, 1876.

ituated just beyond Gampaha, the Gardens were set up for the propagation of the first para rubber seedlings to be successfully grown outside native Brazil.

'The Handbook for the Ceylon Traveller' describes the event thus: "The story is amongst the most fascinating botanical true-romances – the smuggling of the seeds down the Amazon in bales of cotton; the intensive research for the best technique of exploiting the tree commercially; the development of various technological uses for the product including the rubber tyre which made the automobile industry possible – and the sequel is more exciting still. From these trees came the seeds dispersed throughout South-east Asia to give a dozen countries a financial mainstay, and the economic revolution that sprang from them broke for ever the ruthless rule of the South American 'rubber barons' and made of their millionaires' city, Manaos, with its marble pavements and gold-plated WCs, a ghost town.

No.6 at Henaratgoda was the first tree to be planted; but the most famous is No.2, which yielded 392 pounds of dry rubber in less than five years at a time when every aspect of growing and tapping was still experimental."

The article states that there is more to see than the rubber grove. "A plantation, for instance, of Chaulmoogra, an ancient Eastern specific against leprosy long disregarded by the West; a rare collection of palms; and magnificent trees of many kinds. Trees, indeed (rather than flowers) are the glory of Heneratgoda and the most impressive of all are giants from the South American continent seen here to better effect than in any of Sri Lanka's other Gardens. They are also preserved on either side of the entrance gate, two small patches of untouched 'jungle'; an unusually imaginative exhibit."

Heneratgoda Gardens is well worth a visit. You can go by train, get down at Gampaha station and do a quiet trudge along the Minuwangoda road. By road, go along the Colombo-Kandy road, turn off at Miriswatta junction, reach Gampaha and proceed.


The great road-maker arrives

At least a few British governors made an impact on our country during their administration. One such was Sir Edward Barnes who was appointed Governor on January 18, 1824. Known as 'the great road-maker,’ he was the pioneer of the planting industry and a great road builder. He was a soldier by training, having served in the British army during World War 1, reaching the rank of Major-General at the age of 37. Once he assumed duties as Governor he proved himself a capable administrator within a short time.

Governor Sir Edward Barnes

Barnes was in Ceylon from July 1819, first as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces and then as Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony (February 1820) after Sir Robert Brownrigg. Having gone as Commander-in-Chief of India, he came back as Governor in 1824.

In his road building programme, Barnes connected Colombo with every town in the Island and linked Kandy with every coastal town. Compulsory labour where peasants who held their land by service tenure had to compulsorily work for two weeks was used to build most of the roads.

After building the roads, he started developing the country in areas to which there was access through the network of roads. The establishment of coffee plantations in the hill country started during his time. It was a friend of his, George Bird by name who had started the first European coffee plantation in Ceylon in 1823. Europeans were allowed to receive grants of land up to 4000 acres free from tax for five years. Giving the lead in growing coffee, Governor Barnes himself opened the Gannoruwa estate in 1825.

He gave tax incentives which were intended to promote local industry and increase exports. Apart from coffee, he promoted copra, coconut oil, fibre, tobacco and pepper. He started a license system for arrack.

From what was an empty exchequer he left behind a surplus of £ 73,615 by the time he relinquished office in 1831.


The bridge of boats

The bridge of boats

The Kelani Ganga is an important landmark at the entrance to Colombo from the east. The Colombo-Kandy road being a vital route, the early British administrators were keen to see that the river could be crossed without much difficulty. A bridge of boats was constructed at Grandpass in 1822 for the easy passage of carts carrying goods to and out of Colombo.

The bridge of boats carried all the Colombo-Kandy road traffic until 1895 when the Victoria bridge was opened.

Top to the page

Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.