Casino Avenue, SE24

Place Name

This has nothing to do with the roulette wheel but comes from the original meaning of the Italian word casa meaning a house in the diminutive of small house, as in a cottage. This was laid out on land that had belonged to Casino House, which belying its name was in fact a large mansion with extensive grounds and a huge fishpond. The house, which was also spelt Casina, or even Cassina, was built in 1800 by leading lawyer Richard Shawe. Shawe, sometimes spelt Shaw, could easily afford the extensive property having made a fortune as lead counsel in the defence of Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of Bengal and the man who helped secure the Estate India Company’s place in what was to become the Raj. Hastings was a brilliant administrator but on his return to England he faced charges of embezzlement, extortion, and coercion and an alleged judicial killing of Maharaja Nandakumar. The case was tried in Parliament. At stake was the future of empire with the trial becoming a debate between two radically opposed visions of its role – one based on ideas of power, conquest, and subjugation of the colonised in pursuit of the exclusive national interests versus one represented by Edmund Burke, of sovereignty based on a recognition of the rights of the colonised. The trial ran for 148 days over a seven year period. The costs were eye-watering Hastings complained about the cost of defending himself from the prosecution. He is even said to have once stated that the punishment given him would have been less extreme had he pleaded guilty. In fact he was acquitted but even so his legal fees totalled some £70,000. The mansion was demolished in 1906 with the lake (now reduced in size) in Sunray Gardens.

 

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