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Lawyers, lakes and lost villas: The story of Richard Shawe and Casino House of Dulwich

A small piece of Humphry Repton’s landscaping survives in a south London park.

Casino Avenue in Dulwich is named after the former Casina House

The leafy, inner London suburb of Dulwich couldn’t be further from the gaudy, neon lights of Las Vegas. However, after seeing the sign for ‘Casino Avenue’ in the district, you may find yourself wondering about the meaning behind the name. Despite the gambling association most of us have with the word ‘casino’, the avenue is named after a former Georgian villa which used to stand in the area, named Casina. Although the house is long gone, its grounds now survive as a small park, while the man who owned it is buried locally in a listed grave.

Before discovering the history of the house, it’s important to know how its building was funded. Lawyer Richard Shawe (1755-1816) was appointed to defend Warren Hastings (1732-1818) in Britain’s longest political trial. Having served as the Governor-General of Bengal following years in India, Hastings was impeached on charges of corruption upon his return to Britain. In 1795, Hastings was acquitted after the seven year trial. He was left financially ruined, with £7,000 in legal fees going to his lawyer. Obviously, Shawe was left quite the opposite from penniless after the trial. He had already married well, to a Miss Esther Croughton (the first of his three wives), with Hastings’ legal bill giving his coffers a huge boost.

Two years after the verdict, Shawe bought 16 acres of land on Dulwich Hill (now Herne Hill) in what was then Surrey. In 1797, he commissioned prominent Regency architect John Nash (1752-1835) to design a villa. Completed by 1800, it was named Casina (later Casino), and was Palladian in style with an Italianate influence (see a London Metropolitan Archives sketch of the house from 1810). The grounds were laid out by celebrated landscape designer Humphry Repton (1752-1818), who was in partnership with Nash for several years before their relationship soured in 1800. Repton’s features included an ornamental canal and fish pond. He later went on to design or extend Regent Street, Carlton House Terrace, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace and Piccadilly Circus (basically half the Monopoly board!).

Humphry Repton pond Sunray Gardens © Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2020

Humphry Repton’s pond survives in Sunray Gardens

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Exploring Dulwich’s street art with the Dulwich Festival

Feeling Gung-Ho? A giant inflatable obstacle course is coming to London

Gung-Ho

Gung-Ho – a huge inflatable obstacle course – is coming to London’s Brockwell Park in March

Is your average fun run or sponsored walk just not challenging enough? Well thrill-seekers will get the chance to do a very different 5K when Gung-Ho! comes to London in March.

The world’s biggest inflatable obstacle course will be making a one-day pit stop in South London’s Brockwell Park on 25 March. Up to 5,000 people will be able to travel 40mph on Europe’s tallest inflatable slide – the five-storey-high, 200ft-long Thriller. There will be 10 obstacles spread across the 5k course featuring enough air to inflate 100 million footballs. Among the mini adventures will be a huge inflatable ball-pit, climbing wall and foam-filled labyrinth, as well as huge vertical drops and an inflatable ‘gauntlet’.

The event was conceived in 2014 by Cbeebies presenter Alex Winter, who brought Gung-Ho! on a huge countrywide tour last year following its successful launch in 2015. He said: ‘I am so excited to be bringing Gung-Ho! to London for the first time – as our capital city I have always wanted to take the event there, and finally we have managed it. We have visited some amazing cities across the UK and seen how Gung-Ho! they can go – now we’ll find out just how Gung-Ho! London is! I have no doubt Londoners will be well up for what is a unique, fun-filled event for people of all ages. It is a chance for adults to feel like kids again, and kids to show the adults what they are made of.’

For those who want to raise money at the same time, Gung-Ho! has teamed up with BBC Children In Need, who are offering discounted tickets and a free T-shirt to those who run for Team Pudsey.

  • Gung-Ho! takes place in London on Saturday 25 March 2017. At Brockwell Park, Herne Hill, SE24 9BJ. Nearest station: Herne Hill or 20 minute walk from Brixton. Time slots from £41. Runners must be at least 3ft tall. Spectators can watch for free. For tickets and more information, visit Gung-Ho’s website.

For a guide to what’s on in London in March, click here.

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First Aid Box review: Healthy cocktails and sharing plates are just what the doctor ordered

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Tune tartare @ First Aid Box in Herne Hill

After a night of indulgence, many of us try to counteract the toxins by reaching for healthy juices and vitamin supplements. A new addition to the South London bar scene, the aptly-entitled First Aid Box, are offering healthy food and drinks, with a quirky boozy twist. Situated opposite Brockwell Park in Herne Hill is a new venture from the same team behind Brixton hotspot The Shrub & Shutter.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

A Brockwell Park Bramble, with gin, vitamin C and a syringe shot of Chambord

Although a cafe by day, a friend and I ventured along to First Aid Box one weekday evening for cocktails and light bites. The intimate venue features a mix of bar stools and table seating, with low lighting, taxidermy and a medical paraphernalia dotted around. On the night in question, the Box featured a mixed clientele, with predominately small groups of friends aged in their 20s and 30s. We were served by a lovely waitress, who encouraged us to try the specials menu.

In keeping with the medical theme, the cocktail menu features unique concoctions with a healthy twist. I opted for a Brockwell Park Bramble – Whitley Neill Gin, Maraschino, Vitamin C, Fructose, Plum Bitters and Chambord Syringe. (£8). I found great enjoyment in sipping a bit before shooting my syringe full of blood-coloured Chambord into my cocktail. A nice touch was our accompanying still water served in vintage brown medicine bottles, which reminded me of the ones owned by the school nurse.

First Aid Box serves a healthy menu, featuring salads and ceviches using locally sourced vegetables, fish and meat. My friend and I weren’t in the mood for big dishes so opted for sharing plates. We opted for a Tuna Tartare, served with crispbread and hazelnuts, which was absolutely delicious. I’m usually not a big fan of salads, but the Artichoke, Potato and Rocket Salad from the specials menu was definitely some greens I could get on board with. The flavours and dressing worked really well together.

Overall First Aid Box offered something different for Herne Hill. Tasty food, great cocktails and a fun, intimate setting. I’m looking forward to returning regularly.

  • First Aid Box, 119 Dulwich Road, Herne Hill, SE24 0NG. Nearest station: Herne Hill. For more information, visit the First Aid Box website.
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2016

Delicious: Artichoke, Potato and Rocket Salad


For more of Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant review, click here.

First Aid Box Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Lambeth Country Show 2013 makes a perfect return to its July slot on a hot weekend

Twelfth Night in Brockwell Park review | A hilarious take on The Bard in the open air

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The Bard in the park: (L-R) Alicia Charles (Olivia), Jennifer Rhodes (Maria) and Amy Downham (Viola) in a scene from Twelfth Night at Brockwell Park

Following a short run at Morden Hall Park, a new production of Twelfth Night opened at Brockwell Park, Herne Hill on July 3. The production features a cast of nine, and is set on a simple stage. Of course, with William Shakespeare‘s words, there isn’t much need for props. Of all the plays of The Bard I have seen, Twelfth Night is one of the more uplifting and fun and was hoping this production would do the play justice. Arriving at the open air stage just beside Grade II-listed Brockwell House at the top of the hill in the park, I was keeping an open mind with my expectations. However, was pleasantly surprised to find them surpassed. While Shakespeare’s language can be hard work to understand, the emotion and timing by the excellent cast made them easy to decipher.

The production is set during the 1960s in the Mediterranean, with twins Viola (Amy Downham) and Sebastian (Paul Hayward) arriving separately on the island of Illyria after being shipwrecked. Heartbroken with grief thinking her brother has drowned, Viola decides to disguise herself as a boy and finds work with the dashing Duke Orsino (Adrian Irvine). Orsino is lovesick for Countess Olivia (Alicia Charles) and employs Viola to woo her on his behalf. Unbeknown to him, his right hand man ‘Cesario’ is actually a woman… and pining for him. Rather uncomfortably for Viola, she realises that Olivia has fallen for her, believing her to be a man. The love triangle soon becomes a love square when Sebastian arrives on the scene – with all the locals believing he is Cesario. Viola fighting off the attentions of a persistent Olivia makes for hilarious scenes.

© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

Simple staging: The simple set leaves the focus on the actors and The Bard’s brilliant script

Providing a hilarious subplot is Olivia’s drunken uncle Sir Toby Belch (Anthony Glennon), who spends his time drinking and making mischief with his niece’s gentlewoman Maria (Jennifer Rhodes), Sir Andrew Aghecheek (Andrew Pepper) and court jester Feste (Morgan Philpott). They end up targeting Olivia’s steward Malvolio (Philip Childs) in a bid to amuse themselves, causing much discomfort for Olivia.

The play was divided into two acts, which moved very swiftly. Unlike with some other Shakespeare productions, it was easy to keep up and the audience were frequently in hysterics as the chaos unfolded. While I found the cast all excellent, Pepper’s Andrew and Childs’ portrayal of the ‘most notoriously abused’ Malvolio were particularly entertaining. On a warm summer night, the intimate setting was relaxing and quaint. I can highly recommend the production, so check it out before it closes.

  • The Attic Theatre Co & Sixteenfeet production of Twelfth Night or What You Will Run runs from July 3 – 14 just beside Brockwell Hall at Brockwell Park, Herne Hill. Evening performances nightly 7.15pm, matinee performances 2.30pm (July 11) and 4pm (July 13). Tickets: £10-£17. Nearest station: Herne Hill (10 minutes from Victoria or Blackfriars). For more information and tickets, visit the Twelfth Night website
© Memoirs Of A Metro Girl 2013

The open-air theatre is located beside Brockwell Hall

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Going country | Enjoying the last days of summer at the Lambeth Country Show 2012