From creating one-off pieces of furniture to transforming an infamous penitentiary into a whimsical museum, David and Yuge Bromley’s artistic projects continue to make a mark on Daylesford, Melbourne and beyond.

David and Yuge Bromley love a good project. From their base in Daylesford, the partners in life, business and art are perennially occupied with an evolving list of creative projects that bring visitors to the region they love to call home.

Whether it’s running commercial galleries or acting as the creative force behind building redevelopments – you name it, the Bromley’s have had a hand in it. And now they are turning their attention to one of Victoria’s most infamous buildings.

As new owners of the Old Castlemaine Gaol, the creative powerhouses are currently writing the next chapter of the imposing stone building’s story.

Built in 1861, the notorious penitentiary has been described by many as a ‘house of horrors’, but the couple are keen to breathe new life into the heritage-listed building by welcoming a new generation of visitors.

“We love this place. We want to bring poetry to it,” explains David, in between bites of a pie he bought at the Guildford General Store – a necessary pitstop before driving to spend time at the gaol site.

When the renovation is complete, the space that David refers to as an “installation of wonders” will house the Bromley’s personal art collection of modernist paintings, sculpture, and ceramics.

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David and Yuge Bromley

David describes his vision as “…A Midsummer Night’s Dream meets Edward Scissorhands,” a far cry from the building’s grim history of executing prisoners by hanging. While some are fascinated with the spooky backstory of the building, Yuge and David don’t want to dwell on its dark past.

“We’re trying to shift the axis. There’s a clear, historic element that will always remain. But for us, we want to take it on its next journey,” explains Yuge.

Taking old buildings on new journeys is something the couple are accustomed to doing, having worked on a number of building projects including the restoration of the Royal Highlander Hotel in Ballarat (now known as the Pub With Two Names).

The couple share an indefatigable approach to work. While COVID-19 restrictions gave them more time to catch up on their to-do list, the couple aren’t exactly the type to relax much.

“Yuge and I are workers. We’re in our element when we’re working. We do art and projects, whether the sun shines or there’s a full-blown storm. We’re committed to being creative every day, whether there’s a market or not. We’re sticking to our vision and growing it – no matter what,” says David.

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Boon Bromley

Collaborating with builder and woodworker Hans Boon has given David much joy of late. Sharing a strong work ethic and a good sense of humour, Hans and David’s symbiotic relationship sees them spend hours in their workshop fashioning eye-catching desks, chairs, and shelves that are sold at the Boon Bromley store on Vincent Street, Daylesford.

“Hans is Dutch and I’m part-Dutch. We’re both hard workers who put in ridiculous hours. He’s one of the greatest builders I’ve ever seen. He’s a real thinker. He makes hard things, easier,” says David.

Celebrating his sixtieth birthday this year, David is showing no signs of slowing down. A documentary project narrated by David Wenham is in the works as well as a new coffee table book, set to be launched at the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair in 2021.

“It’s an honour and privilege to work. I’m somewhat terrified of a David and Yuge who aren’t occupied to the hilt,” says David, whose aversion to sitting still has resulted in an impressive body of work.

“If David is ever incapacitated, I’ll get him a souped-up mobility scooter for him to zip around in!” says Yuge, with a laugh.

About the author

Jo Stewart 2
Jo Stewart
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Jo Stewart is a freelance writer and book author who lives in a 100-year-old workers’ cottage in Kyneton. Her work has been published in Monocle, International Traveller, The Age and The Saturday Paper. She is also the author of That’s So 90s, an illustrated book dedicated to the pop cultural wonders of the 1990s. When not writing feature articles about food, music, travel, culture and sustainability, Jo likes listening to live music, spending time in nature, drinking good wine and beer, and hunting for vintage treasures in op shops.