Klossenburg, which translates to ‘citadel on which the sea roars’, was an island in the Galle harbour, on which the Dutch built a fortalice with a battery of two guns in 1719.
The Sinhalese called it ‘Aluth Kotuwa’ meaning new fort. After the British arrived in 1790 the fortalice lay abandoned.
In 1842 the P&O ship ‘Hindostan’ called at Galle harbour initiating a regular service with Europe.
The British called it Closenberg Island. In 1860 Captain Francis Bayley who was the agent for P&O, acquired the island and built a magnificent mansion on top of the Dutch ruins. He named it ‘Villa Marina’ as an ode to his wife. Bayley drew inspiration from both Dutch and British architecture, and incorporated nautical themes in construction, as well as the P&O symbol of the ‘rising sun’ in much of the woodwork.
Colombo, the capital, became the principal port in Ceylon (as Sri Lanka was then known) and in 1882, P&O moved its headquarters from Galle to Colombo. Closenberg Island was sold in 1889 to Simon Perera Abeyewardene, who was a close friend of Captain Bayley.
The hotel has remained in the Perera Abeyewardene family and is today preserved as a historic heritage hotel in Sri Lanka.