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150th Anniversary of Holy Trinity Church - Nuwara Eliya

By Rene Aryaratne

Holy Trinity Church Nuwara Eliya, a Quaint Old Church will Celebrate its 150th Anniversary on 24th February 2002.

The church was built to resemble Canterbury Church of England and is situated in the valley between Sri Lanka's (Ceylon) highest mountain, Pidurutalagala and the 3rd highest peak, Kikilimana, amongst Pines, Cypress, Rhododendrons and flowering shrubs.

The architectural features of Holy Trinity Church is breathtaking. A work of art and much valued stained glass window, depicting a "Madonna" was placed on the East Wall of the Chapel, to celebrate the centenary anniversary of the church in 1952.

The Chapel of Our Lady was dedicated by the Right Reverend: A.R. Graham Campbell, on 19 May 1960. To commemorate the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Second and His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, A stained glass window, with The British Royal Emblem, placed in the right wing in 1954, with the inscription "Kings Shall come to the brightness of thy rising". The service register confirms that Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness the Duke attended the Easter Morning Service on 18 April 1954. A special Red Carpet ordered from England was laid along the aisle, from the Baptismal Font to the High Alter to grace this special occasion.

The famous Pipe Organ, which was recently repaired and put back to use, stands in the Left Wing of the Church and evokes nostalgic memories by the old parishioners of yester years. It is with pride I wish to mention that my late mother, Dorothea Celestina Perera was the first Sinhalese Organist at Holy Trinity Church for almost 15 years. Miss. Estelle Bartholomeuuz, who recently passed away in Brisbane Australia, succeeded her.

During the tenure of my mother as the organist, a Duke from England, who attended the 10.30 am service, which was then termed as "The Matins", was overawed with the musical rendition of "God Save The Queen" to the accompanying vocals of the Haddon Hill Boys and Girls Choir. At the end of the service, my mother was introduced to the Duke, as requested. The Duke shaking hands and congratulated my mother and stated, that this was the first occasion that he had herd a musical rendition, of God Save The Queen, Britains National Anthem, played on a Pipe Organ with such emotion. Whenever my mother related this incident, a radiant glow appeared in her face.

The original Bible with the Apocrypha, which was presented to the Church by the Society for Promoting Christianity, is still to be seen on the "Hawk Lecturn" of Burnished Brass. A Marble Cross with letters of Alpha and Omega on either side of the stained glass windows behind the Alter and a Brass Plate, engraved with flowers add to the grandeur. The roof structure, with its magnificent timber trusses adds luster to the architectural beauty of the church. The choir stalls are of solid Oak. A blue carpet, which adorned the timber floor, from the Alter to the Baptismal Font, along the aisle, is no longer in use. On either side of the nave are elongated Stained Glass Windows with Silver Filigree beadings for protection, depicting scenes during the Lifetime of Jesus Christ. The Baptismal Font is a simple but elegant structure made of Marble. Above the font are the church Bells, which are tolled by the Sexton for different services.

At the entrance of the church is free offertory box. Racks attached to the back of the pews, hold hymnals and Bibles. The kneelers are of teak wood and cushioned. A beautiful water colour painting of the Early Church, painted in 1853 by one of the members of Sir Samuel Bakers family, a painting done in 1942by Mrs. Francisca Williams, wife of a Vicar of the church, Reverend J.L. Williams, photographs of the Church administrators and choristers taken in 1909, photographs of the changes to the Alter, a plan of the Nave of Canterbury Cathedral still adorn the Vestry wall. A Granite Plaque with the inscription "All Saints Day 1899" is embedded in the outer wall of the Alter. Amongst the Colonial Rulers who are buried in the beautifully landscaped graveyard, which surrounds the Church, are Lady Olive Mary Caldecott, wife of Sir Andrew Caldecott, the last Governor of Ceylon, Family members of Sir Samuel Baker.

The late Reverend Mathias de Silva, my grandfather, was the first Ceylonese Assistant Priest appointed by the English Trustees of the Church. Holy Trinity Church is beautifully landscaped. The aged & gnarled Cypress's, Pines and Firs stand tall and evokes nostalgic memories. Cherry Trees canopy tombstones, which are mostly of marble. Some of the English Vicars, whom I can remember having served terms at the Church are Reverends Freeman, J.L. Williams Ardant Constance and William Beale

During the Second World War, when the British Tea Planters migrated to Kenya and South Africa, the Church came under the Diocese of Colombo. The late Canon R.S. de Saram was the first Ceylonese to succeed the last English Vicar. He was followed by Reverends, K.S.D Manicam, Godwin Weerasooriya. The latter was appointed as the first Archdeacon of Nuwara Eliya. They conducted services in English, Sinhala and Tamil. Reverend Godwin was succeeded by the late Reverend J.B.S Daniel.

A Community Center, which was urgent need, was started in the year 1987, with the Foundation Stone being laid by The Right Reverend Swithin Fernando, Bishop of Colombo. Unfortunately due to lack of funds, work came to a standstill when the walls reached roof level height. The timber floorboards require urgent refurbishment and maintenance of the church to preserve its pristine beauty requires funding.

It would not be befitting if I fail to mention that the late Reverend J.B.S Daniel who helped me with historical information on the growth of Holy Trinity Church and by permitting me to go through the Church annals, enabled me to compile and present this article.


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