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Saturday, December 15, 2012

Colombo - Old Town Hall Building


As a result of Colombo being made a municipal council in 1866, the old town hall building was setup in 1873 by the then colonial British government and opened by the then Governor of Ceylon Sir William Gregory.

The building is set out in a neo-gothic style, and at the time was built to impress, to show off the grand colonial architecture. The building was built at a cost of $70,000 at the time.

For more background information on this, I found the following link to be of good quality, taken from a local news paper.


The old town hall building is situated at the round about junction between, Main street, Dam street, and Bodhiraja Mawatha, in the area of Pettha of Colombo. The below map shows the exact location.

View Larger Map

Getting there

I would say the easiest way to get there is by tuk tuk or taxi, alternatively you can walk from any one of the hotels in the Galle Face, Fort areas (30-40min). The markets of pettha can get very busy, and there a little or no pavements in some of the side roads, but this all adds to the experience. 

View Larger Map

On my journey, I opted to walk from the central bus station, which is located in Pettah, the route I took followed the street markets and the bazaars of main street. I will discuss the markets and shopping bazaars in another article later. This was around a 15 min walk, which however took me a good hour as I had stopped to take pictures of all the lively and noisy activity in the streets of both the shoppers and the merchants alike, I must say it is a perfect set for a street photographer to capture moods, personalities and customs. You can also easily get there from the main railway station. I would say the walk would be around 20 mins at the most, and it is relatively easy to find.

Locals are very friendly and most of them will speak a varying degree of English  Please note they all like a photo to be taken of them, I did entertain them with this! Don't worry about getting lost as either you will be able to get directions from a local, or you will be able to get a tuk tuk, these are abundantly available all over the place.

All streets are well labelled, and most shops on their name boards have the full address on them, so even if you miss the street name board, you will be able to figure out where you are from the shops.

Use the map just above for the exact location, which also shows the location relative to the bus station and railway station.


The building it self is a main highlight, which has stood there for over 140 years now, however, to the right of the main building is a shed like area which houses some excellent old infrastructure building machinery, which were used during the colonial period, as well as some service vehicles, such as Sri Lanka's first mobile library van, first garbage collection truck, and steam rollers that were used to pave the roads of Colombo. Below are some pictures of these.

The building it self has some excellent late 1800s wood work, beautiful wooden ceilings and window frames. There are also some panes of stained glass.

Most of the wood work were done using imported Teak wood from Burma, and were locally crafted. The building it self somewhat  from the exterior looks much like a church. See below pictures taken of both the exterior and interior of this colonial building.

 As of Dec 2012, during my visit the building looked like it needed some uplifting done to it, originally restored in the late 80's by the then president, it does not look like much has been done since. However there is still hope for this magnificent piece of colonial architecture, as the government has embarked on a beautification process of the city of Colombo.

Finally here is a video from Nickventure, which is somewhat like a tour of the building. Thanks again to Nick for his extensive gallery of videos on Sri Lanka!

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