In 2003, Laurelle and John Grimley first saw Woodbridge, sad, forlorn, derelict and overgrown, when they came to Tasmania on holidays, and they were indignant that ‘the government’ and ‘heritage’ could allow such a wonderful, historic house to get into such a state.
Then in 2004 they happened to be in Tasmania again and found that Woodbridge was up for sale. There had apparently been a lot of interest in it but no one had been willing to take on the mammoth task.
The Grimleys were semi-retired, experienced in property development and had rejuvenated old buildings, but they had never tackled a project as complex as this. However they recognized that they brought together three crucial elements – they had the time, they had the expertise and they had the finances… it was a matter of ‘put your money where your mouth is’! As Laurelle explains it, when would they ever get another opportunity to do something like this?
John climbed around the foundations with a German engineer who had experience with European castles. He agreed that ‘the bones were sound’ and that Woodbridge could be saved, and thus began a two year project under John’s direction, which won the 2005 Tasmanian and later the 2006 Australian HIA Renovation of the Year Awards.
But restoring the building was just the first stage of the project. If Woodbridge was going to survive, it had to be able to pay its way. The Grimleys pondered the options, and agreed that Woodbridge would make a delightful boutique hotel, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Grimley’s one regret is that they had not owned Woodbridge earlier to fight the government’s decision to demolish the out-buildings for the roundabout.
There is a full photographic record of the restoration in The Reading Room of Woodbridge.