Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Royal Alfred Sailors' Home - Bombay - 1876 - a colonial edifice

old image. Royal Alfred Sailors' Home,Bombay Alamy
Royal Alfred Sailors' Home - Bombay - 1876, Flickr

Above image: The building was named after the "sailor prince," Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's second son and therefore Duke of Edinburgh, who had visited Bombay in 1870, and its original purpose was to provide accommodation for up to 350 men, both officers and seamen (see "Proposed design"). It was architect  Steven's first important building in Bombay, while he was still with the Public Works Department...............................................

The city of Mumbai (Bombay) has countless colonial buildings as everybody knows it was the capital of Bombay presidency during the colonial rule until 1940s. The number of British-built structures  here will tell us their heyday and how best they had established themselves in India after entering India as mercantile traders centuries before. Equally disparaging fact was the lack of unity and cooperation among the Indian rulers, who were busy strangling each other's throat. This led to the entry of foreign rule in India, first from the NW region and later from Europe.

Among the stunningly beautiful colonial buildings of Mumbai constructed in European style, the Royal Alfred Sailor's Home is worthy of mention. This building came up to commemorate the  visit of HRH Prince Alfred, the then Duke of Edinburgh, to Bombay in 1870.  Besides, the building provided  comfortable accommodation for visiting seamen and officers on shore leave. Hence, it has large, airy rooms with fine bathrooms. In 1870, the foundation stone was laid by Prince Alfred and HH Khunderao, the Gaekwad of Baroda. It was designed by the famous architect FW Stevens who chose Gothic style for this rather luxurious hostel. It took seven years to complete the building.

Royal Alfred Sailors' Home - Bombay

 Above image: The well decorated central pediment, with its maritime motifs: a wavy-bearded Neptune with nymphs, seahorses etc., flanked at either side of the pediment by sea-lions with curled tails each holding a pennant. The crocheting is designed to look like waves just about to turn and break........................

An interesting feature incorporated in this historical building is the  relief sculpture by Richard Lockwood Boulton of Neptune within the central gable; he is surrounded by nymphs and sea-horses. Blue basalt  Porbunder, Kurla and Hemnagar Stone were used for the construction work.  Christopher W London, an expert on Bombay's architecture, calls  it as
'masculine' feel to the building based on his observation of rough -hewn stones, details and the unique style of the edifice.  The interior part is well ventilated, taking into account the humid condition of this area.  The stairway supported by round arches of blue basalt is centrally placed and it provides access to upper levels. Yet another feature is a corridor of about 10 feet depth that nicely encircles the entire building, providing  convenience as well as fresh air. 

The building housed a library for the use of inmates of this hostel. RAS home, for the convenience of seamen visiting the port, had  large dorms with well furnished bath rooms, dinning room,  Safe-deposit vault, etc., and other services like boarding at a reasonable rates so that they won't be fleeced by the local privately owned hotels. As a result the hard-working sea men could save considerable money without being subject to exploitation. 
The Home, that was run on principles of order, comfort and liberality,  was also a refuge for the shipwrecked and distressed mariner.

 This massive stone structure houses the Maharashtra State Police Headquarters; 

for viewing old pictures - 1870 go to