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History of Ceylon Tea is an industry-service project by Dilmah. Click HERE to read more.
30th September 2022


  • The Story of Walker Sons & Co Ltd by Hugh Karunayake
  • The History of the Nuwara Eliya Tea Estates Co by Ian Gardner
  • Memoirs of the Month -  About David Perkins by Anura Gunasekera
  • Photo Album of the Month - Gowerakelle Estate, Badulla
  • Contributor Photo Album of the Month - Iain Young
  • Planter Profiles of the Month - Mahinda Wijesekera & DSP Ariyaratne
  • Down Memory Lane - RIP Jeremy Rajiah
  • Historical Events in 1903
  • Tea Radio by Dilmah


Whilst the enormous contribution of Walker & Co as engineers to the Ceylon Plantation industry for more than a century is well-documented, less is known or spoken of about their equally telling contribution in the field of architecture and construction. In this piece, Hugh Karunayake documents the rise and the fall of arguably one of the country's foremost corporate contributors of the 20th century.

The founder of the firm, John Walker, was born on 24 August 1819 in Doune, Scotland, the seventh child of James Walker, a cobbler, and his wife Charistina (nee Strang). He attended school in Deanston and was thereafter apprenticed in the engineering shop of Deanston Cotton Mill operated by James Finlay and Co. In 1842 he travelled to Ceylon to work as an engineer for Wilson, Ritchie and Co., which owned the Hulftsdorf Mills, and which revolutionized coconut oil production through the invention patented by David Wilson.

John Walker thereafter worked in several firms in Ceylon before returning to Scotland in 1854. In Scotland he met William Turner an engineer who he had known in Ceylon, and who encouraged him to return to Ceylon to work in Turner’s engineering business in Kandy. Walker arrived in Ceylon in 1854 and established his own engineering firm John Walker and Co at Trincomalee Street in Kandy, manufacturing machinery for the country’s rapidly developing coffee industry. The invention of a disc pulping machine patented in 1860 saw machinery exports to other coffee producing countries like Java, Southern India, and Brazil. In a letter written by John Walker to his brother William in Glasgow circa 1856, he stated that the buildings owned by the nascent company may be valued at £400 sterling. “The motive power is the Malabar cooly, as we have not enough water for the blacksmith’s troughs, and fuel is expensive! Our customers are three hundred planters scattered over the Central Province. As a class I would call them good customers, but some are very long in paying”. In 1854 William became the buying agent for his brother John, and they established themselves in Glasgow under the name Walker Brothers.

In 1862 William joined John as a partner and by 1870 the company had opened branches in Badulla, and Haldummulla, and by1873 branches in Dickoya and Dimbulla. In 1873 Walker founded a new company Walker and Greig to supply machinery to the new tea plantations. In 1880 the company manufactured the first tea rolling machine. Walker Brothers based their headquarters in Kandy, and thrived during the coffee boom, but as early as in 1864, the company contemplated moving to Colombo and leased out premises which were however never occupied. With the construction of the Southwest breakwater in the Colombo harbour, in the 1870s, shipping out of, and into Colombo was the favoured option. The Company first leased out the premises known as “The Corner” at the corner of York Street and Main Street in 1881 and it moved its headquarters and workshops there. The premises were later acquired by the Company and in later years during the twentieth century housed its head offices and show rooms there, while the workshops including the foundry, and dockyard were constructed on fifteen acres of land in Mutwal leased out from the government for 99 years in 1912.

Click HERE to read the full article.



By Ian Gardner
The factory at the Hethersett tea plantation played an important part in the development of Sri Lanka’s tea industry, and in helping Pure Ceylon Tea to become renowned as the world’s favourite beverage.

Tea from the Hethersett factory was the first to fetch the highest price in the world for silver tip tea from Ceylon. In 1891, Hethersett tea was auctioned in Mincing Lane, London for £1.10s.6d, over thirty times the then average price 1s0d for a pound of tea.

This was an exciting achievement for a new tea factory.

Tea was first grown commercially in Ceylon (which became Sri Lanka in 1972) by a Scotsman, James Taylor, on a coffee estate named Loolecondera, near Kandy, in 1867. Taylor, with encouragement from Dr.Thwaites, the Director of The Royal Botanical Garden at Peradeniya, planted 20 acres of tea grown from seed imported from India.

It was a wise move as, soon afterwards, a dreadful blight ravaged the coffee plantations on which Ceylon’s economy depended. Planters turned in desperation to tea and cinchona (for quinine) as alternative crops. Within a decade of Taylor’s planting, there were 5000 acres of tea growing in the hills of Kandy and Nuwara Eliya.

In response to requests to open up plantations, the government sold virgin crown land around Kandapola to pioneer planters in the 1870s. Among the bidders was Mr.W. Flowerdew. He was the first planter-proprietor, agent and resident manager of what became Hethersett Estate. This consisted of 250 acres of which he planted 150 with cinchona.

Flowerdew was a pioneer. He camped in the wilderness he had bought, working alongside labourers hired in gangs from India. Before clearing and planting the land, he built himself a log cabin, using boards sawn from trees felled to open up the land. The roof was foliage used as thatch. It was a primitive and tough life.

The name he chose for his plantation gave a clue about Flowerdew’s origins. He seems to have named it Hethersett after a village southwest of Norwich in England. Perhaps it was his home village since even today the distinctive name of Flowerdew is to be found in the Norwich area.

The Tamil name for the plantation is Poopanie. Translated into English it means Flowers of Frost. It is picturesque way of describing the cold mist that occasionally descends on Hethersett, which is 6800 feet above sea level, although only six degrees from the Equator. Actually, the plantation name, however apt, is a direct translation into Tamil from the English name of its original owner: Flowerdew.

Flowerdew had a partner during his first year on the plantation, Jas. R. Jenkins, an experienced tea planter who advised him to grow tea as well as cinchona. History does not recall what happened to Flowerdew but by 1881 he seems to have sold the plantation. A temporary manager,[1] A.C.W. Clarke was in charge and the estate was in the name of Jas. Whittall, with his own company, Whittall & Co., as agents.

The agent’s role was vital in the early days of the tea industry. Usually, an estate proprietor was an individual or company based in England who needed an agent in Colombo to provide support, and supplies, to the manager of the plantation. A broker handled the sale of the crop.

Whittall & Co. remained as agents for a few years but ownership passed to Mr.J. MacAndrew. An experienced planter, K. MacAndrew, doubtless a relative, became the resident manager. In 1885, Hethersett consisted of 254 acres planted in tea and cinchona.

Cinchona served as a cash crop while the MacAndrews were nurturing tea. K. MacAndrews was also the manager of the neighbouring estate, Denmark Hill. This was the beginning of a link that resulted in green leaf grown at Denmark Hill being processed into made tea at the Hethersett factory.

The successful sale of the early shipments of Hethersett tea in London, and the record-breaking price selling price, in 1891, began the formidable reputation of the Hethersett mark, making it synonymous with Pure Ceylon Tea of quality.

Click HERE to read the full article.



By Anura Gunasekera
In the last Newsletter, we featured the story of an old notebook that had been maintained across the 1950s and 1960s by Tea Planter David Perkins. In this piece, also penned by Anura Gunasekera, we feature the story about the man himself - David Perkins.

David Perkins is the son of English parents. His father, G.G. Perkins, had been an officer in the British Army during the First World War, serving in the Western Front. At the end of the war, accepting a tea planting opportunity in Ceylon, he had moved to Hatherleigh Estate, Rakwana, in 1919. He had been joined by his fiancée in the following year and they had married at Christ Church, Galle Face. David’s older brother had been born in 1921, whilst Perkins Snr was still at Hatherleigh. In 1923 he had been appointed the manager of Rye Estate, Balangoda, where David had been born, in 1926. Perkins Snr had finally retired from Rye in 1956, five years after his wife’s demise.

David’s Words;”….. My father’s first name was Gerald. He was a machine-gun officer in the 10th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment when he was shot through the left wrist on the third day of the Battle of the Somme, July 1916. His type of wound was nicknamed a “Blighty wound”, not life threatening but bad enough to take him back to “Blighty”, slang for England, for treatment. It was during his recuperation and continued service in England that he met George Crabbe, a Ceylon tea planter on leave, who offered him a job after the war, on Hatherleigh Estate, Rakwana. Crabbe was a well-known shikari and wildlife photographer, and I remember seeing his framed photos of wildlife on the walls of the old Ratnapura Club. He owned a bungalow in Diyatalawa where my parents spent their honeymoon, and he was there when he sadly committed suicide as a result of the stock market crash in 1929.

Click HERE to read the full article.


Gowerakelle Estate, Badulla - Manager's Bungalow

Click HERE to view the album.


Iain Young

Featuring photos from Robert Buster Strang Young's album of his time on Alupolla Estate.

Click HERE to view the album


 (L-R) Mahinda Wijesekera & DSP Ariyaratne

Click on respective photo to view profile


We remember Jeremy Rajiah whose funeral was today. Jeremy (extreme right) was a regular feature at the HOCT Christmas Parties and his larger-than-life presence will be sorely missed by family and friends alike. Rest in Peace, Jeremy.
In Ceylon
  • First motorcycle imported to Ceylon.
  • An Association of Proctors called the Law Society of Ceylon was formed.
  • "Temple Trees", Kollupitiya, bought by Government for the official residence of the Lieut-Governor.
From around the Globe
  • The Ford Motor Company is founded by Henry Ford with $28,000 in cash from twelve investors.
  • American motorbike brand, Harley-Davidson is founded in Wisconsin.
  • The Paris–Madrid race for automobiles begins, during which at least 8 people are killed; the French government stops the event at Bordeaux, and impounds all the competitors' cars.
  • Orville Wright flies an aircraft with a petrol engine, the Wright Flyer, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in the first documented and successful powered and controlled heavier-than-air flight.
  • American socialite Aida de Acosta, 19, becomes the first woman to fly a powered aircraft solo, when she pilots Santos-Dumont's motorized dirigible from Paris to Château de Bagatelle in France.
  • The first Tour de France bicycle race is held; Maurice Garin wins it.
  • The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, opens its doors to guests.


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