The Tale of Richmond Castle – a Grand Mansion
Richmond Castle Kalutara
Where is it
Nestling close to the Kalu River in Paltota in rural Kalutara lies this grand mansion with its 42 acres of land. You can easily get there from any of the Bentota hotels. For example, you can reach Richmond Castle in under half an hour from the Cinnamon Bey Beruwala. If you are travelling there from Bentota, go towards the clock tower, pass the police station and take a right turn to the riverside road. Go straight down the road until you reach the Palathota junction. Drive straight down again until you reach a temple after about 2 kilometres. You’ll spot the mansion just after the temple.
The story of Richmond Castle
Don Arthur De Silva, a wealthy businessman from a prominent family built the Richmond Castle after he visited a Maharaja’s castle in India. Born into a noble and rich family, Arthur studied in Great Britain and he made friends with other young men of noble descent who were studying in England as was the custom in the days of the British Raj. Before he returned home, he visited his friend Maharaja of Raman. Arthur found the Maharaja’s castle irresistible and wished to build a similar home for himself. When Maharaja of Raman commented that he very much doubted that Arthur could build a mansion similar to the castle, Arthur summoned an architect from home to study the castle. Once he went back home and secured the job of Head of Mudaliyars in Kalutara, he used his inheritance and money from his successful business ventures to build his dream mansion.
Built in the Edwardian style, Richmond Castle turned out to be impressive indeed. It is a two-storey building with 16 rooms and an incredible 99 doors and 34 windows. Arthur imported most of the construction material from overseas. A double-winged staircase (teak) connects the two levels of the mansion and commands respect from the prominence of the lobby. Teak wood for the stairway and door and window frames came from Burma. The architect used galvanized pipes to pump water to the bathroom on the top floor. Tinted glass adorns doors and windows of the mansion. The architect was ahead of his time in harvesting rainwater on top of the roof to provide natural air condition via clay pipes running beneath the floor. There is an enormous dance hall made entirely of teak wood and the architect cleverly used gaps to allow the breeze from the river to cool the dance hall. The bedrooms in the mansion are soundproof. The Maharaja we mention earlier visited Arthur’s Richmond Castle later and praised the ingenious of the architect’s work.
Life of Mudaliyar Arthur
The Mudaliyar and his wife Clarice Maud Sooriyabandara lived a life of luxury and social success before they parted ways. Their wedding itself is said to have been a grand affair with the Prince and Princess of Wales as guests amongst plenty of other VIPs. Arthur and his wife left the reception in a coach drawn by white horses, an honour reserved for only the most admired nobility. As a loyal supporter of the English government, Arthur received many honours and he the Catholic Church appointed his as a papal knight.
Grief and why he left his dream mansion
The Mudaliyar is said to have loved children. The seven statues of children and one of a mother with a child pays silent tribute to his unfulfilled longing to have his own brood of children running around the mansion halls. Unfortunately, he and his wife were unable to have children, which drove them apart and ended with Arthur leaving his dream home to live at a hotel until his death (alone in his room at the age of 59).
Arthur donated a lot of money to the Lady Ridgeway Children’s hospital and left an estate to provide welfare to poor children. Upon his death, Richmond Castle went to a public trustee. Arthur requested that the trustee manage his property and turn the castle into a home for orphaned children. The trustee manages the mansion along with a house for children.