Halaba Steel Bridge

Halaba Steel Bridge
Figure 1: The Halaba steel bridge was built across the Uma Oya by the British in the 19th century

Halaba Steel Bridge (Sinhala: හලාබ පාලම) is a colonial-era iron bridge in Halaba village in Badulla District, Sri Lanka. Located 1.7 km southwest of the ancient Bogoda Wooden Bridge, it has been constructed across the Uma Oya stream connecting the Uva Paranagama and Hali-ela divisional secretariats.

The history of the Halaba Bridge runs back to the second half of the 19th century. A plaque on the bridge contains the following note;

R. Brotherhood, Chippenham Works, 1867

The year mentioned in this note probably indicates the construction year of the bridge. It is said that the Chippenham Works of the British engineer Rowland Brotherhood (b. 1812-d.1883) was successful in winning orders to fabricate wrought iron bridges for Ceylon (present Sri Lanka) in the 1850s. During this period, complete bridge structures were exported to Ceylon and the bridge over the Mahaweli Ganga River at Gampola was one of the first contracts received by them. However, activity at the Chippenham Works declined in the mid-1860s, and in 1869 it closed with extensive financial losses incurred by Brotherhood. As is evidenced by another plaque on the bridge, it was strengthened in the year 1919.

Re-erected. Government Factory. August 1919. G.H.M. Hyde. F.E. 

There are many baseless assumptions and stories regarding the origin of this bridge. According to one, this bridge was built by the British who actually wanted it to be built at Halawatha (Chilaw), but by confusing the name Halaba with Halawatha they mistakenly built it at the current spot.

The bridge
Presently, there is not a proper road except a footpath on either side of the bridge. The width of the bridge in the middle part is narrower than its two ends. Wooden sleepers have been laid across the bridge to walk. The girders are connected with cross iron bars giving a quadrangle appearance to the entrance from both sides of the bridge. The weight is held by two stone piers constructed across the river.

A protected monument
The Halaba Iron Bridge situated in Halaba village in the Grama Niladhari Division of Thuppitiya in Uva Paranagama  Divisional Secretary’s Division is an archaeological protected monument, declared by the government Gazette notification published on 1 February 2023.

Halaba Steel Bridge
Figure 2: The Halaba steel bridge

#) LankaPradeepa.com extends its gratitude to Lalith Kekulthotuwage for providing the necessary photographs required for this article. All the photos are published here with the permission of the author.

1) The Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: Extraordinary. No: 2317/57. 1 February 2023. p.9A.
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This page was last updated on 19 October 2023

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