It was impossible to have visited Newera Ellia, and to have benefited in such a wonderful manner by the climate, without contemplating with astonishment its poverty-stricken and neglected state.
At that time it was the most miserable place conceivable. There was a total absence of all ideas of comfort or arrangement. The houses were for the most part built of such unsubstantial materials as stick and mud plastered over with mortar - pretty enough in exterior, but rotten in ten or twelve years. The only really good residence was a fine stone building erected by Sir Edward Barnes when governor of Ceylon. To him alone indeed are we indebted for the existence of a sanitarium. It was he who opened the road, not only to Newera Ellia, but for thirty-six miles farther on the same line to Badulla. At his own expense he built a substantial mansion at a cost, as it is said, of eight thousand pounds, and with provident care for the health of the European troops, he erected barracks and officers' quarters for the invalids.
Under his government Newera Ellia was rapidly becoming a place of importance, but unfortunately at the expiration of his term the place became neglected. His successor took no interest in the plans of his predecessor; and from that period, each successive governor being influenced by an increasing spirit of parsimony, Newera Ellia has remained "in statu quo," not even having been visited by the present governor.
In a small colony like Ceylon it is astonishing how the movements and opinions of the governor influence the public mind. In the present instance, however, the movements of the governor (Sir G. Anderson) cannot carry much weight, as he does not move at all, with the exception of an occasional drive from Colombo to Kandy. His knowledge of the colony and of its wants or resources must therefore, from his personal experience, be limited to the Kandy road. This apathy, when exhibited by her Majesty's representative, is highly contagious among the public of all classes and colors, and cannot have other than a bad moral tendency.
Upon my first visit to Newera Ellia, in 1847, Lord Torrington was the governor of Ceylon, a man of active mind, with an ardent desire to test its real capabilities and to work great improvements in the colony. Unfortunately, his term as governor was shorter than was expected. The elements of discord were at that time at work among all classes in Ceylon, and Lord Torrington was recalled.
>From the causes of neglect described, Newera Ellia was in the deserted and wretched state in which I saw it; but so infatuated was I in the belief that its importance must be appreciated when the knowledge of its climate was more widely extended that I looked forward to its becoming at some future time a rival to the Neilgherries station in India. My ideas were based upon the natural features of the place, combined with its requirements.
It apparently produced nothing except potatoes. The soil was supposed to be as good as it appeared to be. The quality of the water and the supply were unquestionable; the climate could not be surpassed for salubrity. There was a carriage road from Colombo, one hundred and fifteen miles, and from Kandy, forty-seven miles; the last thirteen being the Rambodde Pass, arriving at an elevation of six thousand six hundred feet, from which point a descent of two miles terminated the road to Newera Ellia.
The station then consisted of about twenty private residences, the barracks and officers' quarters, the resthouse and the bazaar; the latter containing about two hundred native inhabitants.