After the arrival of the Portuguese at the Galle harbor in 1505, by 1519 Roman Catholicism was practiced in various areas in Moratuwa. When the Dutch seized the coastal areas from the Portuguese in 1658, there were many well-established and flourishing Roman Catholic Churches in Moratuwa. The Dutch persecuted the Portuguese and Roman Catholicism in Sri Lanka due to their opposition in Europe, almost all the Roman Catholic Churches were smashed and at many places Dutch Reformed Churches were erected. The Dutch Government in Sri Lanka prohibited all religions except the Dutch Reformed Church. The Dutch Reformed church building that stood behind the present church at the arrival of the British was built in the context of the social history of Moratuwa, which was an integral part of the history of Sri Lanka.
When the British took the coastal areas of Sri Lanka from the Dutch in 1796, many buildings where the Dutch worshipped became places for Anglican worship – the established religion of the British Empire. Accordingly, at Rawatawatte, from the latter part of the 18th century a Dutch building became a place of Anglican worship. The structure of Holy Emmanuel Church was built in 1675 by the Dutch on the site of the general cemetery behind the present church. The old building was in a decaying state, a new church was built in 1815 to replace the Old Dutch Building. As the church was closely associated with the then British Governor Sir Robert Brownrigg it was called “Brownrigg Palliya”.