Star Fort
Matara, Sri Lanka

Constructed: 1765
Used by: Holland, Great Britain
Conflicts in which it participated: None

Portuguese explorers first reached Sri Lanka in 1505, and built their first Sri Lankan fort at the port town of Colombo in 1517. Portugal extended its influence over the coastal areas of the island, and by 1619 had tromped out one of the two major kingdoms of Sri Lanka.

The remaining monarch, Rajasinghe II (1629-1687) (his domain was known as Kandy: Thus he was the King of Kandy. Seriously.), allied with the Dutch (more specifically the Dutch East India Company) when they showed up in 1638, to get rid of the Portuguese. The Dutch-Portuguese War (1602-1663) had already been going on for decades, and the Dutch were only too happy to try to steal Portuguese colonial holdings in
Sri Lanka, just like they were doing everywhere else in the world. The eventual outcome of this war gave all African and South American holdings to Portugal, while Holland got those in the Far East and South Asia.

Fort Matara, the Dutch rampart built atop Portuguese fortifications, overlooked by a British clock tower
The Dutch had removed the Portuguese from Sri Lanka by 1660, but violated the treaty to which they had agreed with King Kandy by remaining in the places they had conquered. One of the ports that the Dutch deemed worthy of fortification was Matara.

The Dutch built Fort Matara in 1640, essentially just a 42-foot thick, 13-foot high, 164-foot long wall with cannon behind it, along a tongue of land that any ship must pass to enter the harbor. This structure became known as Main Fort after Star Fort was built.

The Matara Revolt of 1762 did damage to most of the Dutch structures in the town, plus Fort Matara was taken by the locals. Built to batter approaching ships into splinters, a single battlement wasn't much use against swarms of little Sinhalese dudes running at it! The Dutch recaptured Matara the following year, and built the 12-gun Star Fort in 1765. And we all know a starfort is just the thing to defend against swarms of little Sinhalese dudes. It has been alleged that the Dutch kept crocodiles in Star Fort's moat, but that seems like the stuff of fantasy, in that making your moat a stinky aquarium would have been way more trouble than it's worth.

During the various wars that were brought about by France's anti-monarchical spasms (1793-1815), Great Britain became concerned that Sri Lanka (which was known to the British as
Ceylon) would fall into the hands of the wicked French, as the Netherlands had most certainly fallen to the French, and Sri Lanka was a Dutch possession (please keep in mind that the Netherlands is a country whose people are Dutch, and who live in Holland, which is also the Netherlands. Got it?). Great Britain moved onto the island in 1796 and swiftly gained command of most of the coastal areas.

The Treaty of Amiens (1802) officially ceded Ceylon to Great Britain, and by 1815 the silly Kandyan monarchy had been done away with. Apparently wishing to grant the priceless gift of semiaccurate timekeeping to their minions, the British built a clock tower by the Main Fort in 1883. Sri Lanka finally became independent of Great Britain in 1948.

The Dutch government has recently plunked down the money to have Star Fort restored, and today the fort boasts a museum that illustrates the ancient arts of Sri Lanka, along with restored prison cells and shooty places and stuff. Visitors suggest that an hour is plenty of time to take in the sights of both Main Fort and Star Fort.
Star Fort's lovely main gate. Note the letters VOC over the doors, which is the symbol of the Dutch East India Company. Redoute Van Eck refers to Dutch governor Lubbert Jan baron van Eck (1719-1765), who was governor of the island from 1762 until 1765. Could that have been the intended name for the fort, Redoute Van Eck? Everybody seems to think it's called Star Fort these days.

A realistic interpretation of the fabled Star Fort moatodile. Ridiculous? Why yes, thank you.