By: Sandali Tiwari
In a quiet nook on Perry Road in Bandra (W), stands Peace Haven, with its striking blue facade and a serene prayer garden at the entrance.
Built in 1930, Peace Haven was a wedding gift by Beatrice Clifford’s father to his wife. “My father Valentine was working in the UK and, when he got married he moved back to Mumbai and built the house for my mother,” said Beatrice, 71, who now owns this Grade IIB heritage house.
The colonial-style villa was built based on the designs available in books of those times. Valentine’s stint in England had a considerable influence on the house’s architecture. Everything about the interiors — from the Italian marble flooring, the spire made of Burma teak to the use of stained glass, the wooden tower and the ‘coat of arms’ bearing the initials of Valentine Clifford, give the house its distinctive character. “Blue was my mother’s favourite colour. Everything in the house is blue,” said Beatrice.
Set in a large compound, placed almost centrally, the house has two bays. The right bay facing the Kantwadi road is the public zone comprising the main hall, dining and the pantry while the left bay is more private with five bedrooms and a staircase in the centre. The circular entrance space that becomes a balcony that runs around the house is a key feature.
Beatrice also constructed a grotto from a broken bathtub for her mother. A spiral staircase in the rear gives access to the service areas of the two floors.The large dining hall with a 12-seater table and a huge painting of ‘The Last Supper’ was the family’s most intimate and cherished place in the house, says Betty, as Beatrice is affectionately called.
“The family always had dinner together. My mother’s birthday and Christmas were a reunion of sorts,” she said, recalling the times when her brothers and cousins would feast on a 10 kg turkey during celebrations.
However, the heritage home has had its own set of problems. Lined with tall trees, this structure won a long battle with clawing builders. The house was not listed on the first heritage list made in 1995 but was added to the list 10 years later. “I am glad to keep the house as a heritage structure. At least the builders have stopped harassing us”, said Beatrice.
Until recently, the ground floor the villa was illegally occupied by a tenant who tried to strike a deal with a builder for Rs 1 crore and oust the owners. Clifford, who lives alone, made rounds of the courts for several years. “The times when I was harassed by the illegal occupant, her 14 armed men and lawyers are something that I will never forget. They threw my help from the balcony and me from a train. It was dreadful,” said Betty.
Also, restoring the edifice costs a fortune. “Restoring the roofs, rafters and the wooden beams is difficult because of the cost. Also, the BMC poses problems as we have to take their permission before any restoration work. The taxes keep on increasing,” added Beatrice.
While many owners continue to give their villas to builders for redevelopment, Beatrice is happy with hers. “Who sells a gift, after all?” she asks.