Wilson Family In Ceylon

Robert Wilson’s Ceylon Tea

1807    Ancestors’ of Robert Wilson went to Ceylon in the Royal Artillery. Their son James (Sen) was born in Colombo in October 1808. A year later in October 1809 his father died of disease or was killed, leaving his mother to bring up him and his older sister. She later eventually remarried.

1815    Kandy was taken by the British. Some of the British army were encouraged to leave the army by the Governor with a large payment which they invested in Crown lands to create a source of income to fund the infrastructure of roads, bridges & railways.

1860    40,000 acres of coffee had been planted. James is believed to have been working with Alexander Brown well known for building bridges and cutting roads. James (sen) and his wife Mary nee Brown had a son James (Jun) born in Kandy in 1831.

1848    James (Jun) is recorded as owner of Pen-Y-Lan, Doteloya and Meddegodde estates growing coffee and spices. He married Catharine nee Russell Scott, daughter of another planting family.

1840’s Gardiner arrived from Kew in London to set up a small research station in what is the Royal Botanical Gardens, Peradeniya today.

1845    Gardiner was on a visit to Pen-Y-Lan when he noticed that some of the coffee bushes on a ridge had some disease, later identified as Hemileia Vastatrix (coffee rust). He returned a year later and the disease was spreading in spite of treatments with lime – a disaster for the coffee enterprise! By 1870 coffee was virtually wiped out. Gardiner had received some tea plants from Bruce in Assam at Peradeniya and he sent these out to Pen-Y-Lan and two other estates. The tea plants grew by the bungalow but the estate owners did not realise their significance at that time.
Eventually James Taylor went to India to see how tea was planted and processed and on his return planted the first tea field on Loolecondera in 1867. Desperate coffee planters pulled up their coffee and followed suit planting tea fields.
James (Jun) and Catharine had three sons and four daughters. The sons that survived were Walter Scott Blackett who managed Pen-Y-Lan and Norman James Wilson Blackett who was Factory officer at Doteloya. They also managed Meddegodde apparently previously owned by the Stephens of Cooroondoowatte estate.

1887    Robert and Charles Wilson arrived from England. Robert was billeted with Walter and Charles with Norman, helping to develop the three estates with tea. Through this Robert met and married Alice (Walter’s sister). He appears to have been given Meddegodde estate at this time. Robert and Alice had six sons – one of whom was Roy born August 1905 at Meddegodde, the present Robert Wilson’s father.
Robert (Sen) whilst manager at Cooroondowatte cut what is the Lantern pass half way down to Gampola whilst the Scott family cut it up from Gampola in order to allow bullock carts to access Dolosbage and transport the huge crops of made tea down to the Gampola rail head.
Robert (Sen) developed Meddegodde as a reminder of Scotland creating a home rather than a commercial estate. Having lost two sons to unhygienic milk in those early days he resolved to have his own milk source. He added a deer park and built huge aviaries on three sides of the bungalow that he built.

1939    Roy’s son Robert (Jun) born in Colombo, followed the family tradition and returned to the island as 6th. generation to plant on various estates in 1959 after attending school at Blundell’s in England. Meddegodde the family estate having been sold to Thondaman the CWC  union leader in 1959.

1964    Robert returned to the UK where he farmed and had three children with his wife Evangeline.

1995    Robert started Robert Wilson’s Ceyon Tea. Being passionate about the tea industry and wanting to ensure the highest ethical standards Robert has consistently kept had all of his packaging and design work within carried out within Sri Lanka and works with closely with single estates which provide high quality living standards for their employees.

2016    Following Robert’s decision to semi-retire his youngest daughter Sarah became a distributor for Robert Wilson’s Ceylon Teas starting Wilson Family Teas.