On the North end of the Kandy lake is the hotbed of Kandyan history. The Sri Dalada Maligawa (Temple of the Tooth), the old Courts complex, St. Paul’s Church, the Kandy National Museum and the Queen’s Hotel, all lie clustered together here. And in their midst, nestled against a hillside, lies the British Garrison Cemetery, almost forgotten.
From its establishment in 1822, this cemetery was the designated final resting place of many British and European greats from Sri Lanka’s colonial era. Despite the 1873 ban on burials within the Municipal limits, special provision was made to allow relatives of those already laid there to be buried, in the ¾ acre (1.85 hectares) plot. After Annie Fritz’s burial in 1951, death appeared to have claimed the Garrison Cemetery too.
This small oblong plot of cleared ground, bordered on three sides by the Udawathakelle Forest Sanctuary, where chattering monkeys and the acrid smell of elephants mingle with the peace and quiet of this tranquil place, are tombstones and black headstones
marking the resting places of the departed and telling the names and dates of their deaths. Here you will find examples of table tombs, raised tombs with inscribed side tablets, obelisks, a fluted column and many more of the mundane and uncommon foot stones.
To name, but a few of the 195 graves:
John Spottiswood Robertson – 1823-1856. The seventh and last recorded death of an European in Ceylon killed by wild elephants.
Leiut. General John Fraser - Best known for his Satin Bridge, which spanned the Mahaweli Ganga (river) at Peradeniya. This graceful single arch with a span of 205 feet was in use from 1833 to 1905. It was built with not a single nail or bolt. A model is now in the South Kensington museum.
Sir John D’Oyly – 1774-1824. He represented the British government at the 1815 Convention whereat the Kingdom of Kandy was annexed to the British Crown.
Lady Elizabeth Gregory – 1817-1873. She was the wife of the Rt. Hon. William Henry Gregory, Governor of Ceylon, 1872-1877.
In this lonely spot, notwithstanding its near proximity to the great city of Kandy, lie many, cut off in the very prime and vigour of their manhood. It is very hard to imagine the richness of the history that lies buried in the grounds of the British Garrison Cemetery. This is the European grave yard of Kandy. A forgotten corner of England.
Extracts from Namall Premawardana’s paper article and brochure of Friends of the British Garrison Cemetery