Combined with carefully cultivated gardens and orchards, Burma teak shingles, antique furniture and stone walls in beautifully tranquil surroundings, Adisham is a charming stone mansion, built by Sir Thomas Lister Villiers. Nestling in the hills of Haputale, it remains a relic of our colonial past, which continues to enchant hundreds of visitors with its old world charm.
The 140th birth anniversary of Sir Thomas, the first owner of Adisham, better known as Chairman of George Steuart and Co., was marked on October 31.
Arriving in 1887 and having received a public school education, Sir Thomas began his life in Sri Lanka as a planter. After his marriage in 1896 he left, only to come back four years later, to begin his own tea estate in the country which had captured his heart.
A descendant of the royal family of Bedford and grandson of Lord John Russell (twice Prime Minister of Britain), Sir Thomas’s legacy lives on in the long turret windows, terraced lawns and granite walls of Adisham – the Tudor style mansion (now a Benedictine monastery) situated about two miles from the Haputale town.
Adisham, incidentally named after Sir Thomas’s birthplace in Kent, was a homesick Englishman’s dream home in the tropics.
The house was designed in the Tudor and Jacobean style on the lines of Leed’s Castle by British architects R. Booth and F. Webster, with no expenses spared.
The construction of the mansion was completed in 1931 and boasted of special masonry by temple masons from South India and arresting structural designs as well as period furniture, linen and carpets imported from Britain.
The gardens of Adisham possessed beautiful flower-beds and orchards and entertained the elite of Ceylon many a time on its extensive lawns.
Located on 10 acres of land, surrounded by lush foliage and with a magnificent view of the surrounding hills, Adisham was the picturesque, story- book mansion that anyone could yearn for.
Adisham, which was formerly known as ‘Adisham Hall’, was acquired by the Oblates of St. Benedict in 1961. Forty-eight years afterwards, it is now primarily a monastery and novitiate.
Now in its 48th year under the Benedictine presence and home to a handful of monks and novices, Adisham retains its Old England charm through impeccable preservation and is one of those rare places which remains untouched by the hands of time. The half-wild fruit and vestiges of Villiers’ orchards, discovered by the priests have blossomed into well-tended gardens over the years and are used to make cordials and jams, which Adisham is famed for.
This monastery is a haven in the hills and retains the spirit of Sir Thomas Villiers in its hallowed halls.