Conservation of the Main Fort and Old Nupe Market at Matara
This project is part of a proposal for conservation and preservation of heritage sites with a special reference to the Eastern and Northern Provinces 2009-2012 issued by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage in Sri Lanka under the auspices of the Sri Lanka – Netherlands Cultural Cooperation Programme.
Matara was made into a fortified settlement soon after the Dutch capture of Galle in 1640. During the Dutch occupation, Matara was famous for cinnamon production and elephant trade. The fort was shattered by an attack from the Kandyan kingdom in 1760. Matara maintained in the hands of the Sinhalese for almost one year. In 1762, the Dutch were able to recapture Matara Fort without much resistance. Matara was the second important fort for the southern maritime provinces of the Dutch and also a commanding base for some inland forts. In 1796 the fort was ceremoniously handed over to the British. The building at Nupe is an early British building and a prominent landmark in Matara. It was constructed to be used as the market. At present, it is used as a training centre for artists engaged in performing arts ad is administered by the Cultural Centre of the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and National Heritage.
At present the ramparts of the Matara Fort are reasonably well preserved except for the southern bastion which was removed to provide easy access outwards along the sea side. The northern limits of the ramparts are in the hands of the army. A building constructed on the terraces of the rampart on this end has disturbed a fair amount of archaeological data and the integrity of the rampart. Although the ramparts and the bastions are structurally sound at present, the growth of vegetation on the masonry structure has deteriorated the architectural fabric and visual integrity of the monument. If this situation continues, it will affect the structural integrity of the fortification in time to come. A colossal Bodhi treaa grown close to the rampart wall has caused its deterioration which has be addressed urgently.
Furthermore, Matara has been identified as a major centre for cultural tourism and the conservation of the Dutch Reformed Church in Matara and the Matara Fort are profession in this regard.