Sir Robert Wilmot Horton (Governor of Ceylon 1831-1837)
Sir Robert John Wilmot-Horton, Baronet (B.A.) was born on 21 December 1784. He was educated at Eton College and Christchurch College, Oxford. Sir Wilmot was also a Member of the Parliament for Newcastle from 1818-1830, Under Secretary of State for Colonies (1821) in the Liberal Government of Lord Liverpool.
He was Knighted on 22nd June 1831 and served as the Governor of Ceylon from 1831 to October 1837. However, he resigned the position in order to succeed to the Baronetcy on the death of his father Sir Robert Wilmot. Sir Wilmot comes from a prestigious milieu by being the only son of Sir Robert Wilmot, Baron of Asmaston. He married Anne Beatrix, eldest daughter of Eusebius Horton of Catton, Derbyshire. It also happened that the beautiful Anne Beatrix was a cousin of Lord Byron, the famous Poet who has written many verses inspired by her.
Sir Robert Wilmot assumed the name Horton by Royal license on 8th May 1807 in compliance with the Last Will of his father-in-law. M. Wilmot, Horton’s half-brother by his father’s first wife was in the Ceylon Civil Service before Horton’s arrival as Governor. He served as the Government Agent Southern Province. Horton’s cousin E.P. Wilmot was a District Judge.
Governor Horton was a liberal according to the standards at that time and he originated many new measures recommended by the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission. These included:
• Inauguration of Ceylon’s First Legislative Council and Executive Committee (All nominated by the Governor). The first meeting of the Unofficial Legislative Council is dated to the 1st of October 1833 presided by the Governor Sir William Horton.
• Abolishing compulsory labor and abandoning government’s claims to free service.
• Right to private property and temples were to be left untouched.
• Abolishing government’s monopoly of the Cinnamon Trade (1833) which came down from Dutch times.
• Moors and Malabars (Tamils) had the right to own houses and land in Fort & Pettah areas which were earlier forbidden by the Dutch.
• Started the first newspaper; Colombo Journal first published in 1832.
• Started the first mail coach in Asia; the passenger and Postal Service to Kandy. The earlier carriage was by palanquin and Bullock Carts.
• Government interest in higher education took concrete shape with the formation of the Schools Commission (1834) and he instituted the First Government School in the Island- The Colombo Academy.
• Ceylon Savings Bank established.
• Cricket Club formed in Colombo (1832)
After serving many years in Ceylon and later in his homeland, Governor Horton died on 31st May 1841 at Sudbury Park England.
Rev. Joseph Marsh (Founding Headmaster)
Rev. Joseph Marsh, M.A. (Edinburgh) was born 1803 at Bonsall, Derbyshire, England and died on the 2nd February 1839 at sea off the Cape of Good Hope Colony (now South Africa)
Marsh arrived in Colombo in 1831 from Madras and took up his post as Mathematics and Classical Tutor at Church Missionary Society Cotta Institution. With his appointment as Acting Colonial Chaplain of St. Paul’s Church Colombo, he started a Private Academy to educate the children of the Upper Classes in January 1835. When the residents of Colombo noticed the good work done at the Private School, they petitioned the Governor His Excellency Sir William Horton to establish a school to be operated by Government, and with a lower scale of fees, so as to allow the majority of young men in Colombo to gain the benefits of good education.
Governor Horton converted Marsh’s Private Academy to the Colombo Academy in January 1836 and made Rev. Marsh Headmaster on a salary of £ 200 per annum (£16-13s-Od approx. Rs.168/- per month on condition that fees would not be raised). As Secretary Schools Commission he received a salary of £ 8-8s-4d per month and £ 8-6s-8d per month as Secretary, Friend in Need Society. Marsh, according to accounts was a mild-mannered Padre, who did not believe in Corporal punishment.
Rev. Marsh’s initiatives included:
• The School Library in January 1837
• The First School Magazine- “The Colombo Academy Miscellany & Juvenile Repository” in January 1837. (He was the Editor)
• A Printing Press in 1837
• The First Prize Giving for the Colombo Academy was held in June 1837
Rev. Marsh’s health had deteriorated badly during 1838 and he went abroad on leave. He passed away a few weeks after leaving Ceylon.