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  Estate History

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  Estate History
Although the exact year of inception of Laxapana Estate in 19th centaury cannot be found, from information in Ferguson’s Ceylon Directories, it could be presumed that approximately between the years 1830 -35 it had come into existence as a coffee plantation following opening of coffee plantations in the Island (then known as Ceylon) by Governor Sir Edward Barnes and by an enterprising coffee planter George Bird in year 1825, whereupon there had been expansion of coffee plantations by British civil and Military Officers and by the elite and wealthy people of British nationals.

In late 1870s an estate named John’s Land (now called as Valamalay) had been included with Laxapana Estate which was then owned by M/s. Dickinson & Akroyd & Co, managed by M/s. George Steuarts & Co Ltd. and Mr. G. Graig . The Superintendent and Assistant had been T. Jebb and H. Towgood . In 1881, there had been less than 100 acres cinchona and over 650 acres tea inter-planted with Cinchona. It is obvious that Laxapana had gradually turned into tea and cinchona after the destruction of coffee plantations having been devastated by coffee blight from about 1855.

The present St. Andrews Upper & Lower Divisions of Laxapana Estate was a separate estate named as St. Andrews Estate, owned by Mr.T.N. Christie, with whom, in Febryary, 1881, a German visitor named Earnest Haeckel (Bilologist/Physician) had spent few days and climbed to Adam’s Peak on 11th February, as described in the book tilled ‘A Visit to Ceylon? published by him in 1883, originally in German language and later translated to English.

In 1897 Laxapana and St. Andrews Estates had been bought by Ceylon & Indian Planters Association Ltd. along with Kandaloya Estate in Dolosbage, Maha Eliya Estate in Nanuoya, all of which had thereafter been managed in Ceylon by M/s. Skrine Ltd. (This company after affiliation with Bosanquet & Co. had become Bosanquet & Skrine Ltd. which, later collaborated with Wihittall Boustead Ltd., and subsequently the estate agency section was named Whittalls Estates Agencies Ltd.)

Whilst, initially, Laxapana and Valamalay had been a separate unit as Laxapana Estate, St. Andrews Upper and Lower had been another separate unit as St. Andrews Estate. Upon amalgamation these two estates in 1938 it has become a single unit of estate as Laxapana.

Presently Laxapana is divided into five divisions for administrative purposes, namely Laxapana, Valamalay, St. Andrews Upper, St. Andrews Lower and Hamilton.

A major part of original Laxapana Division had gone beneath the waters of Mousakellie Reservoir when it came into being for the sole purpose of hydro power generation to the national grid in 1967. Gone under the water were not only part of the tea plantation, but also a large number of worker and staff housing, a beautiful typical colonial bungalow that housed the Superintendent and a majestic and up-to-date four story factory building.

To compensate the lost cultivated extent and to re-settle and provide employment to those displaced, 60 hectares of new planting of tea was undertaken, clearing a jungle land and settlements were established to house the displaced workers, while a new factory of modern type and a new Superintendent’s bungalow and several numbers of houses for staff were also built. The newly planted area was identified as a division and named as Hamilton. (Incidentally, Hamilton had been an estate in 1870s but and abandoned by 1881 as could be seen in Ferguson Ceylon Directory of 1881-82)

Consequent to nationalization in October, 1975 the estate was managed by Sri Lanka State Plantations Corporation (SLSPC), an organization created by the government to manage the estates vested in the state.

As the state owned organization was performing poorly, the government de-vested the state owned estates with the private sector, forming several Regional Plantation Companies (RPCs), upon which the estate became the property of Maskeliya Plantations PLC in June, 1992, then under RPK Management Services of John Keells Holdings and later under the present RPC Management Services, a subsidiary of Richard Pieris Group of Companies, a reputed company in the Lists of Colombo Stock Exchange.

In its existence more than 1 3/4 century Laxapana Estate till this day bears unmatched unique pride of having hosted a very important personality in the International Financial circle, the then Chairman of World Bank, Mr. Robert Mc Namara, who arrived by a helicopter in year 1978 for a brief visit.
The beautiful colonial bungalow with neatly laid lawn lost to waters of Mousakellie Dam.
Over 50 year old Laxapana factory building being dismantled to make way for Mousakellie Dam coming into being.
Bride across river Kelani on the road to Laxapana. Adam's Peak at the far end.
A view of Laxapana old tea factory.
Another view of Superintendent's bungalow went beneath the waters of Mousakellie Dam.
Workers ferrying across river Kelani to Forres Estate, during coffee period. Another View of Adam's Peak.
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