Kayman’s Gate belltower

Kayman’s gate belltower at Pettah, Colombo

Here it hangs to this day, waiting to do service again as a Church Bell. In the stream of commerce which whirls around it, both the bell and the belfry apparently fail to claim any notice. As soon as sufficient funds are available, tower and bell will be renovated and used again to mark special events in the country and the city.

Main Street at Pettah (Colombo) was known as Koningsstraat (King’s Street) in Dutch times, and terminated at Kayman’s Gate. Kayman (Kaaiman) meant alligator, and the name was given to the gate as the crocodiles, which at that period were found in large numbers in the Beira Lake, were coming to this spot along St. John’s River to eat of the garbage thrown out by the city dwellers.
The Kayman’s Gate bell is said to date back to the sixteenth century, and to have originally hung in the Portuguese Church dedicated to Saint Francis, which once stood in the heart of the Royal City of Kotte. This city was abandoned in 1565 and became a howling wilderness. In Dutch times it was re-occupied. The bell, found amidst the ruins of palaces and temples and churches, was apparently removed in due course by the Dutch, and was set up on the Belfry at Kayman’s Gate.