Swarts House Site (Colombo Fort)

Swarts House Site Colombo Fort
Swarts House Site (Photo credit: Google Street View)

The Swarts House Site is located at No. 17 on Mudalige Mawatha in Colombo Fort, Sri Lanka.

The present building at the site stands on the spot of a Dutch house that once belonged to Andries Swarts, a lieutenant in the service of the Dutch United East India Company [(VOC) Anthonisz, 1907; Denham, 1912]. He was tortured and put to death on 12 March 1729 because he had given offence to Petrus Vuyst, an infamous Dutch Governor of Ceylon who served the office from 1726 to 1729 (Anthonisz, 1907; Denham, 1912). Not content with killing Swartz, Vuyst razed his house to the ground and erected a pillar on the spot with an inscription warning others of Swarts's fate (Anthonisz, 1907; Denham, 1912).

In the year 1729 is this Memorial raised to the accursed memory of the executed, traitor Andries Swarts on the site of his demolished dwelling-house to be to the righteous a token of incessant thankfulness to God for His Providence, and to the wicked a perpetual warning against evil.
Citation: Anthonisz, 1907. p.108.

The tyrannical and murderous rule of Vuyst ended when he was removed from the position in 1729 (Anthonisz, 1907). Stephanus Versluys (1729-1732) who replaced Vuyst provided relief to the families of those who had been killed and returned the property expropriated from them. Swarts’ relatives were also given the site of the levelled building and they rebuilt the house and placed above the entrance an inscription which is still on the front wall of the building (Denham, 1912).

Translation: Destroyed by might, restored by right
Citation: Anthonisz, 1907. p.107.

As is revealed by 20th-century literature this building may have been later used as the offices of the Lee Hedges and Loan, an old established mercantile and agency house (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016).

The building
The two-storeyed terracotta building has been built in the Neoclassical tradition (Welandawe & Weerasinghe, 2016). However, its original appearance has changed due to subsequent renovations.

1) Anthonisz, R.G., 1907. Report on the Dutch records in the Government Archives at Colombo. HC Cottle, Government Printer. pp.107-109.
2) Denham, E.B., 1912. Ceylon at the Census of 1911. HC Cottle, government printer, Ceylon. pp.154-155.
3) Welandawe, H., Weerasinghe, J., 2016. Urban Heritage in the Western Region Megapolis Planning Project. p.45.

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This page was last updated on 24 September 2022

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