The origins of the service dates back to 1798, when the Secretary of State for the Colonies appointed several officers to assist the British Governor of Ceylon in the administration of the coastal areas. After Ceylon became a crown colony in 1802, an advisory council was formed to assist the Governor, made up of the Colonial Secretary, Chief Justice, Commander of Troops and two other members. Colonial Secretary and the other two members where civil servants. Once the Kingdom of Kandy was taken over by the British in 1815, a British Resident Sir John D'Oyly was appointed along with a Board of Commissioners who were civil servants.
Following the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission recommendations administration of the coastal provinces and the former Kingdom of Kandy were merged and administration formed into one. Thus a central civil service, known as the Ceylon Civil Service was formed in 1833 to handle the administration of the island under the directive of the Governor. As per the Colebrooke-Cameron Commission, the Executive Council of Ceylon and the Legislative Council of Ceylon were formed. Each had members of the Ceylon Civil Service as officials. Most of these were CCS officers including Colonial Secretary and Colonial Treasure. Government Agents were appointed from senior CCS officers to administrate each province.
The Donoughmore Constitution in 1931, replaced the Legislative Council and the Executive Council with the State Council of Ceylon and its Board of Ministers. Three of the Secretaries of the Board where the Chief Secretary, Treasury Secretary and the Legal Secretary. The Chief Secretary, as did his predecessor the Colonial Secretary had complete control over the public services. By this time, Ceylonese were admitted to the service which had previously been limited to Europeans.
The Soulbury Constitution in 1947, brought about self-rule with full power being vested in the legislator and making the Ceylon Civil Service answerable to Parliament.