Born in Bermuda in 1827, Richard Wood (later Shaw-Wood) was an engineer who traveled between Bermuda, England, Nova Scotia, and The United States. In 1856, he was studying in Philadelphia when he married his wife, Sarah Isabelle Shaw. The young married couple moved back to Richard’s home country of Bermuda where they stayed until 1861. In 1861, during the beginning of the American Civil War, Richard and Sarah packed up their belongings and their children to move to Canada in order to protect what was left of their investments. As they settled in Canada, Richard owned one of the largest oil refineries in Canada until 1866, when it was destroyed. In 1876, the family relocated to London and purchased the land Woodholme would later be built on.
While the current address of Woodholme sits in the subdivision of the old Lawson estates property, the original address of the house was 1384 Wonderland Rd. Completed in 1893, the manor was built with a late Victorian Gothic Revival style in mind. At the time it was built, the house was one of the only concrete-poured homes in North America. It is estimated Shaw-Wood used roughly 16 railway carloads of cement to complete the project. The entire exterior as well as a vast majority of the interior walls and floors are made of thick cement. During its original construction, Woodholme had many stables and farm buildings on its 150-acres.
The Shaw-Woods lived in Woodholme for two generations. Following the death of Richard Shaw-wood in 1903, Woodholme Manor was left in his will to his youngest daughter Anna Burgas Shaw-Wood for the remainder of her life. It was expected Woodholme would be left to his grandson Richard Johnston Shaw-Wood following her death. However, Richard Johnston Shaw-Wood was killed in action during the war before he ever was able to take possession of his shares in Woodholme.
In 1914, at the beginning of World War I, Anna left Woodholme to help with the war efforts in England. Woodholme sat empty for the first time in its creation from 1914-1919. When Anna returned from the war, the once glamorous concrete castle sat desolate and had lost its once lively feel. Anna lived in the home until it was bought by Ray and Helen Lawson in the spring of 1920.
When the Lawson’s originally acquired the Manor in 1920, it was primarily used as a summer residence for them and their five children: Helen, Francis, Ray, Thomas, and Jean. The Lawson’s used Woodholme roughly six months out of the year. There were many additions the first generation of Lawsons added to Woodholme Manor including; wood flooring above the poured concrete floors and a bathroom with running water. The Lawson's son Thomas and his wife Margaret “Miggsie”, bought the house in 1950, making them the second generation of Lawsons to rule Woodholme.
Colonel Tom and Miggsie Lawson lived in Woodholme for over five decades. They continued to add onto the house to make it livable year round. Miggsie described the first ten years as a “state of constant renovations” as they worked to put in more bathrooms and bedrooms for their seven children. The Lawson’s welcomed many guests into the concrete castle, including Prince Phillip during the 100th anniversary of The Royal Canadian Regiment in July of 1983. Prince Phillip stayed in a bedroom on the north side of the house.
Colonel Tom Lawson passed away in 1991. Following Miggsie Lawson’s death in 2004, Woodholme Manor would sit empty for the second time in its history.
The house was vacant for six years until Sue-Anna Richardson became the Manor's third and current owner. When she initially toured the home in 2010, Woodholme was cold, desolate and vandalized. There was no running electricity or water. Spray paint covered the old entryway and kitchen. Many of the light fixtures and windows were broken. Yet, despite its run down condition, Richardson was appealed by the woodwork and its history. Part of the attraction was it’s uniqueness.
Richardson has lived in Woodholme with her family over the last twelve years. Much like Miggsie Lawson’s first ten years, Woodholme has been under construction to make the castle suitable for modern day living.