A pair of scientists left behind bustling city life to head home to Ipswich, a Queensland city with the ambience of a big country town, and pulled out all the stops on a huge renovation.
Lakemba is perched grandly on Denmark Hill, an area rich in history and brimming with old homes in varying states of repair. Many have been skillfully restored, and a drive along Chelmsford Avenue will have lovers of Federation-era architecture enraptured. But that was certainly not what Simone and her husband, Jason, felt when they first spotted Lakemba for sale.
“The roof needed replacing, there was rot in the decorative timber features on the verandah and even in some structural areas,” Simone recalls. “The garden terraces were falling apart and significantly overgrown. Access was not safe and it was far from what I would have called an ideal place to raise children.”
But through the cracks and wear, Simone and Jason could see something that niggled away at their better judgement and compelled them to sign up for what would end up being four years of painstaking renovation. “On our last inspection Jason took a photo of myself and our then three-year-old son, Lucas, wandering around the home,” she says. “This image jelled with our family. We knew it was meant to be.”
Lakemba was built in 1902 by a local Ipswich builder, William Betts, for his own family. He certainly scored one of the best vantage points in what was then a bustling regional centre of commerce, coal mining and industry, and Simone suspects he held nothing back in creating an enviable haven in Queensland’s second town.
Close to the original business centre of Ipswich, the home attracted a well-known mercantile family, The Cribbs, in the 1930s. They called Lakemba home for almost 50 years.
The complete story was originally published in Australian Country issue 20.2. Click here to subscribe to our magazine.
Click here for more farm life stories.
Words Tamara Simoneau
Photography John Downs