Adisham Hall, or Adisham Bungalow is a country house. Its 4 km drive from Haputale. 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 house was built in 1931 by an English aristocrat and planter 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.
After retirement of Sir Thomas, it was sold to Sedawatte Mills. In 1961 it was purchased by the Roman Catholic Church and was subsequently converted to a monastery. The house is well preserved along with its period fittings and furniture, and is open to visitors.
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.
At present it houses the Adisham Monastery a congregation of St. Sylvester.
St. Benedicts Monastery Adisham Bungalow
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.
Adisham Bungalow is a stately stone mansion built in 1931 by Sir Thomas Lister Villiers, an English planter. Beautifully situated, in Tranquil surroundings, Adisham Bungalow is certainly a “must see” for those holidaymakers or chance visitors, who haunt the hills from time to time in search of a peaceful resort, far from the madding crowds and the heat of the city.
The sturdy rock like a fortress, surrounded by undulating hills, as far as the eye can see, contains many items that normal visitors are unfamiliar with, which accounts for the large number of guests who seek admission whenever the gates are open.
Sir Thomas Villiers spared no expense to ensure that his country home was luxurious in its appointments. Carefully cultivated flower gardens, 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 fireplaces amazingly heating the room. Antique furniture and a well planted-out construction are a few of the attractions that Adisham Bungalow offers to sightseers. The regency clock though it has stopped ticking stands in splendour on the mantelpiece of the fireplace with its gleaming fire irons. These steps pave the way to the elaborate pillared landing on the main staircase adorned by portraits of his relatives, the Clarendon 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 stonework of the building.
The house is not the only attraction at Adisham. It is surrounded by beautiful orchards that yield English fruit and spacious lawns. The garden layout 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, hornbills 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 gentle person and turned out to be a charming hostess for all her visitors.
This mansion was purchased by the SYLVESTROBENDICTINE monks in 1961 to serve as their novitiate, where those who seek to enter the monastic life are trained. The motto of St. Benedict, highlighted in his rule for monks, is what the community seeks to follow at Adisham Bungalow; “Ora et Labora”.
Maintenance of the monastery and those who reside here have to be met with funds that are earned by the monks’ themselves. Hence the jam products and the produce from the farm.
Maintenance of the monastery garden which retains its old English charm, with well-preserved lawns, beautiful flower beds, evergreens, and majestic trees, is also a costly affair, and is managed by funds collected at the gate, and is therefore not a mere commercial venture. Visitors are welcome to visit the monastery from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Only on the weekends (Saturday, Sunday and Poya days and public holidays) (except Good Friday & Christmas day) what is accessible to visitors is only a limited area.
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