WINTER - Family #1158 

Rev. Charles Winter's great grandfather James Winter, bricklayer of Walworth came from a family which was involved in the building trade. He was listed in Pigot's Directory of 1827 as a bricklayer of 11 Bolingbroke Row, Walworth and in the same Directory in 1838 as resident at 10, Montpellier Street (now Pelier Street), Walworth Road. His son George of Walworth was recorded as a shareholder of the ship "Vitoria", James was buried a St. Peter's Walworth where some of his children were baptised and married.


According to Dorothea Winter's letter, George Winter and his wife Sarah Cresse were given money by her father David Cresse with which they bought a store in Cape Town, South Africa (probably in the Huguenot colony) from where they traded with Mozambique and the Far East. The British government also gave grants to emigrants to South Africa.


There is a family legend that George Winter taught the men of Galle the art of tortoise-shell work which he learned in China (they still wore these combs in the 20th century) and that Sarah taught the women how to make lace on pin-boards. George Winter was called a merchant of Newington on the baptismal of his eldest daughter at Tottenham and brought over two Church Missionary Society clergymen Robert Mayor and Benjamin Ward to Ceylon on his ship. Mayor went to Baddegama and Ward to Mannar on 15.12.1817.

When visiting Robert Mayor at Christchurch, Baddegama (consecrated by Reginald Heber, Bishop of Calcutta) George Winter noticed that the climate was suitable for sugar planting. He referred to his sugar project in a letter to the Colebrooke Cameron Commission after the Kandyan Rebellion.

George worked as a supercargo or agent for the East India Company in 1823 on the "Madras (Clarke was Master). They became business partners and went bankrupt in 1825. ("Tombstones & Monuments in Ceylon" - J. Penryn Lewis, India Records Office Library).

In 1825 He settled at Cinnamon Gardens, Colombo which was half a mile from the Fort and 10-15 miles in length north-east to south. There were cinnamon plantations along the coast in Negombo, Kalutara, Matara and Galle with a Cinnamon Department to deal with the trade.

He joined Muskett & Young becoming head of the firm in November 1825. The firm of George Winter & Co. was dissolved on 15.5.1828 and the business was carried on by J. E. Young.

On 4.2.1834 he was made first editor of the "Colombo Observer" but before the end of the year he was tried, with George Rivers and Nicholas Bergman, the printers, before the Supreme Court presided by Justice Rough, senior Puisne Justice, for a criminal libel against Thomas Oswin, Superintendent of Police, Colombo whom he had charged with gross negligence and misconduct for having refused a warrant of arrest against Rivers's servant. George was acquitted and Oswin died of tuberculosis not long after.

George was a pioneer of sugar cultivation on a commercial scale and other enterprises in Ceylon.. He started manufacturing coir rope and distilling arrack at Kalutara.

George planned to start a sugar plantation at Kalutara and mentioned this in his letter to the Colebrooke Cameron Commission of Inquiry into the Kandyan Rebellion.


His partner and co-editor of the "Colombo Observer" was an Irishman, Christopher Elliott, MD, journalist and deacon of the Baptist Church, Cinnamon Gardens. He was born at Clonmore in the barony of Ivert, Co Kilkenny and married (1) Jessie Selina (d. 7.3.1855 aged 47), daughter of William Clark, a merchant who imported Manchester1 goods to Ceylon and secondly in 1858 Bessie Scott of Woodstown, Co. Waterford. Elliott came to Ceylon in 1834 and was preceded by George Winter as editor of the "Colombo Observer". He was stationed in Badulla, resigned in 1836 and was made Principal Civil Medical Officer in 1858. He had a son Edward Elliot of the Ceylon Civil Service. Christopher Elliott died on 22.5.1859 aged 49 years and was buried outside Wolvendall Church Colombo.


He bought "Temple Trees" (now the official residence of the Prime Minister) in 1848 which had had been previously owned by John Walbeoff, head of the Cinnamon Department who had bought it in 1830.

Walbeoff descended from Sir John Walbeoff of the Brecon family to whom Bernard Newmarch gave lands and the manor of Llanhamlach and Llanfihangel-tal-y-llyn (which came to the Winters of Brecon). John Walbeoff of H.M. Civil Services was appointed 2nd Assistant at the Secretariat on 2.1.1811, became Assistant Collector, Colombo, Vice-President of the Land Raad, Negombo (25.12.1811), Assistant Collector, Chilaw and Puttlam (1.2.1814) and Superintendant Cinnamon planter (1822). He had a bungalow at Kadirane-Goluwapokuna near the stores and courthouse ("nadu soltuwa"), 4 miles from Negombo. On 19.2.1817 he married Jane, daughter of Baron Lynden or Lyden, Assistant Collector of Customs, Jaffna. Walbeoff sent his wife back to her parents in 1825 and then to England with their children. When he died she married secondly Captain Irving Westmorland and thirdly Captain Fagan of the Ceylon Rifle Regiment. Her eldest son (by Walbeoff) married Charlotte, daughter of Robert Karl Roosmalecocq. She was cousin of Henrietta Roosmalecocq, wife of Anthony Samuel White who were maternal grandparents of Rev. Charles Winter whose mother Maria Eveline White was said to have been born at "Temple Trees". Christopher Elliott, MD may have had a clinic there and was present at her birth or alternatively because her mother's cousin lived there. Maria Eveline married George Winter's son Alfred Octavius Winter

Walbeoff was rumoured to have died in a duel with his wife's lover or during a hunting accident at Kadirana on 14.12.1834 when aged 39 years. He was buried in the Galle Face Burial Grounds. After his death "Temple Trees" was sold to C. R. Buller who helped Emerson Tennant with "Natural History of Ceylon". ("Temple Trees - the place and its people" -R. Candappa, T.V. Goonetilleke).

Elliott sold his house for 2,300 in 1856 to John Philip Green who named it "Temple Trees".

"Certain days linger in my memory, as specially delightful, which I spent in the "Temple Trees" bungalow. "Temple Trees" is the name given to the Plumiers ("Plumeria rubra" also called frangipani) of which the beautiful fragrant blossoms are everywhere strewn by the Singhalese in the Buddhist temples, with those of jasmine and the oleander as sacrificial flowers before the images of the Buddha. Two old and splendid specimens of Plumiers stand (only one remains today), with a few casuarinas, on the grass plot which divided the villa named after them from the Galle Road, in Kolpetty." ("A Visit to Ceylon" - Ernest Haeckel).

Elliott and Winter were co-editors of the "Ceylon Observer" (first issue Tuesday 4.4.1834). The newspaper's carrier pigeons travelled regularly between Galle, the mail port and Colombo until 1857 when telegraph was installed.

In 1835 George Winter sailed in the "Africa" (the Master of which was J. Skelton), in the company of Mr & Mrs Walker and their two children. R. Jeffrey Esq., and Mr Adamson to Galle. He lived there for 14 years and is called a merchant of Point de Galle on the baptismal certificate of his son Alfred Octavius. The house he lived does not seem exist any longer. When his grandson, Rev. Charles Henry Winter visited Ceylon in the 1950s he could not find it but wrote a description of it in his memoirs "After the Lapse of 70 years".

In 1849 George Winter bought from an indigo merchant Mr Henley, a plantation on the Gindura river at Baddegama about 12 miles from Point de Galle which was then the main port of call on the route to the Far East where young East India Company marines arrived on every Company sailing ship.

George Winter was a pioneer sugar planter in Ceylon.

"The Dutch introduced sugar into this island and Sir Edward Barnes experimented in its cultivation near Veyangoda and in 1840 it was seriously worked by the late Mr George Winter, who may be considered the pioneer of sugar in Ceylon. According to Bertolucci, the cultivation of sugar cane was attempted twice upon an extensive scale, on the same spot near Kalutara but on both occasions it proved unremunerative. Sir Edward Barnes's experiment came later and was followed by Mr Winter and other planters." (p. 372 "The Vegetable Products of Ceylon" - F. Lewis).

"Baddegama is 12 miles from Galle on the Gintota river. It is 7 miles from Hikkaduwa railway station to Halpatota Ferry which is three quarters of a mile from the Baddegama resthouse. It was at Baddegama that George Winter established the only sugar estate in Ceylon that has lasted. The church at Baddegama was consecrated by Bishop Heber on September 25th, 1825, which event is commemorated by a tablet in the church." ("Tombstones and Monuments in Ceylon" - J. Penrhyn Lewis).

George imported machinery and erected a factory at "Sunny Side" on the banks of the Gindura river where brown sugar was manufactured and after he and his son Edward Winter died, his cousin Haverstock Hodsell Bowman took charge buying more modern machinery building a second factory on Baddegama Estate where refined sugar was produced. The price of sugar dropped from Rs 2 in 1881 to in half that price in 1910. Sugar no longer being profitable the land was planted with tea and rubber.

George Winter may have been involved in providing rare plants or wood for export to Britain.

George Winter died at Galle and an inscription on tablet erected in the Dutch Reformed Church, Galle reads: "Sacred to the memory of George Winter Esq., of Baddegama, who departed this life 21st January 1853 aged 55 years." Four of his sons also died in Ceylon, three being buried at Christchurch, Baddegama, one William Sextus, within the church itself and the other at Galle.

George and Sarah had 12 children.

Closenberg Hotel at Galle was very dear to us when we played on the beach as kids. It was destroyed and oil storage tanks placed on th the loveliest and safest beach in the south and such an act of eco vandalism was committed when it was closed. Closenberg was originally a Dutch fortification. It was bought by an English merchant Marine who was with the East India Company and his Arms lie over the door or so it is thought. They show the suns rays. However, they maybe that of the EIC itself. I wonder whether the merchant knew my ancestor who took the first Anglican missionaries in his ship to Baddegama nearby where the first Anglican church was built. He was the Sugar pioneer, George Winter, a merchant marine also with the EIC who was part owner of the ship 'Vittoria'. He founded and edited the first independant newspaper in Ceylon, now alas taken over by the State as were his former plantations which belonged to us. I often played on the ramparts of the Fort and sipped lime juice at the NOH. Nearby is the Dutch church where George's memorial is. I attended the Galle Convent. My ancestor first reached Ceylon in the 1800's and my Dutch and German ancestors before that. I wanted to establish an environmental charity at our former home near Hikkaduwa but the local M.P is in charge and hands out land like a Rajah for votes. Due to my ancestor, many local families made good and prospered as did the area. He provided the local ships which called at Galle with sugar and distilled Citronella oil from lemon grass, a variety is named after my own grandfather who sent it to Kew where it is preserved.

Our lovely, peaceful island has been ruined. Hikkaduwa, completely spoilt. I am afraid that Tourism destroys much as well as corrupt politicians. There is no justice in Lanka anymore and it saddens me when I return to our once lovely Closenberg as I did in 1994/5 and I am sorry you will never know just how wonderful the area was. Koggala was also lovely and one could swim safely and observe the coral as we did at Hikkaduwa. I wonder if you have visited any of these places? If I find the brochure I got from the Hotel I will send you a copy.

Anne Winter Williams website:



Temple Trees was once the home of John Walbeoff, head of the Cinnamon Dept in 1830 about whom tales of duels and murder were written.His wife, who left him, was the daughter of the Baron Von Lynden.His had a son, John Edmund who was a Wrangler at Cambridge University and later in the Ceylon Customs. JOhn Edmund married Charlotte, daughter of Robert Carl Roosmalecoq and had a daughter, Catherine Jane, who married George Adolphus Hole, who was son of the Rev. George Hole of the Wesleyan Mission by his wife, Selina Tranchell. The latter family were of Swedish descent. Selina was daughter of Lt. Gustavus Adolphus Tranchell,of the Ceylon Rifle Regt. the son of John Tranchill, who was appointed, Swedish Consul in Ceylon by his King, Gustavus Adolphus, after whom he named his son.//Before the Walbeoffs, the residence was occupied by the Baron Frederick Mylius, social reformer and anti-slaver and C.E.Layard of the CCS. The latter was guardian to the children of Dr Abraham White who died young after attending a patient with a contagious disease leaving his widow and seven children in distress.
One can imagine the White and Layard children(there were 26!) playing in the lovely gardens where my own gt. grandmother, Evelyn White, made her first cries.

The gardens I saw, were reminiscent of English ones and I watched the President's spaniel romp about in 1995. I heard it was lit with fairy lights for Independance day. A sight, I wished I had seen whilst staying near by at the GFH.However, the security in place now, must be far removed from those happier, times. It proves that, colonial regimes could be benevolent under whom, all races lived in peace.
I hope this will interest the families mentioned.

Anne Winter Williams



Hugh Blacklaw was a longtime planter who came out with his brothers, James & Francis from Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire and left the island in 1907. He married Maria Tate of Dolosbage in 1864. He writes in the Times of Ceylon in 1907: 'I arrived in Ceylon on 23rd August,1858 in the good ship Briton, a sailer which came round the Cape, and did the voyage in 3 months - just 120 days. She was a little ship of but 350 tons..Colombo was just a one horse show sort of place. There were none of these big buildings, hotels and shops. There were no rickshaws and trams. You could not get a bandy for hire in the streets unless you made special arrangements with one of the hotels in the Fort. The Fort was up then,with all its walls and fortifications and gates and you could not get thru' without being challenged. There was very little of the town outside the Fort. There were 2 hotels, frightfully dirty and undesirable places to stay in. The Royal Hotel stood where the Post Office is now and there was a shanty called the Galle Face Hotel,where the modern one of that name stands today. They were paragons of dirt. The GFH was the sort of place you get away from as soon as possible - it was so bad. No privacy, no cleanliness, canvas partitions and dirt - worse than the fifth rate places you see in some town now'.

A far cry from the chandeliered ballroom of the fifties They were building a sumptous new wing when I left in February this year. How I enjoyed taking tea whilst watching the ships pass and listening to the surf crash against the sea wall at one of my favourite Hotels in all the world.

Anne W Williams


Thanks for the facinating story about Ceylon in the 1860's and the GFH in particular. My brother and I stayed at the GFH on a trip to Sri Lanka in 1990 and enjoyed our short stay. The reason I am interested in your article is the fact that you mention the name of the sailing ship that Hugh Blackshaw arrived in 1858. I have been trying to find the name of the sailing ship that my Great-grand-father Richard William Rowlands would have arrived in Ceylon about the same time. I would appreciate if you could advise me on the shipping passenger registers of the 1850's that you know of. Regards, Ed Rowlands, Yarrawonga, Victoria, Australia.

Ed Rowlands


Dear Edouard,

I have contactd my sister re: passenger lists and she could not help. I would suggest you contact the national Maritime Museum at Greenwich for advise.//Are you in any way related to Peggy or Muriel Rowlands both formely of Ceylon and now living in Aus.

Anne W Williams

Hi Anne, Thanks for your reply. Muriel is my sister and Peggy is my second cousin. Muriel lives in East Bentleigh in Melbourne, Victoria and Peggy in Adelaide in South Australia.

Muriel married Harold Van Twest and they have two adult children, Melanie and Harry.

Peggy married Warwick De Kretser and they also have two adult children.

If you give me some details of your friendships I will pass on your message to them.

Ed Rowlands


Dear Edouard,

Your name did ring a bell because of the French spelling. I think Muriel had a younger sister and a brother, yourself. I knew Muriel very well because we were both in the same class in Lindsay Girls School.Miss Nagasinghe was one of our form teachers. I think Muriel also had a short spell in the boarding which was very small with only about 21 girls under Miss Van den driesen.Peggy, I think was also there at some time as a day pupil and attended the church in front of the school in Bambalapitiya. Harold Van Twest, I met at a Royal Thomian match and I think he was at St. Thomas's boarding in M.Lavinia where several of the family attended. He will also remember me from that happy day we spent with our Gray cousins, Jean and Anne at the match.Muriel was very quiet, She will remember Pam Dean, Moira Paulusz, Lorraine Van der Wall etc.In fact, I have her tel. no. if it is the same that Mrs V Driesen sent me as they have a Lindsay Past Pupils Assoc. in Melbourne. I thought of ringing but felt it may have changed since then. I would very much like to contact her if possible for old times sake.

If I can Email you privately, I will give you my address which Mis VDD has because I write to her now and then.

Anne Winter Williams

Hi Anne, I have copied your e-mail to Muriel and will be happy to pass on your telephone number or e-mail address to her if you send them to me at my e-mail address which is My other sister's name is Marie and my younger brother is Percy.