Bodmin Jail is a pinnacle in the town’s history. It’s where many Cornish criminals were taken to live out the last of their days up until 1909, and subsequently where tales of ghosts and the paranormal continue to this day.
Bodmin County Jail opened in 1779, as part of the plan to provide three penal institutions in
the town: a debtor’s prison, a house of corrections and a county jail. Built by Sir John Call,
the jail was extended in the 1840s to house more prisoners and after being declared unfit for purpose in 1850, a new 220-cell jail was built in its place, completed in 1861.
It wasn’t until 2016 when plans for the redevelopment to create a new tourist attraction came in that the jail got a new lease of life. A significant investment developed the 70-bedroom Bodmin Jail Hotel, as well as the visitor attraction that allows history lovers and those curious about Bodmin’s past to explore more within the walls of the historic Bodmin Jail.
Bodmin Life caught up with Jess Marlton, Museum General Manager, who is keen to get the local community more involved in the events coming up this autumn and winter, and to take advantage of its brand new locals' pass - giving local people access to the jail year-round.
“We want to show that Bodmin has a really cool and quirky heritage and history, something we should all be proud of,” Jess explained. “Bodmin is unique, it’s the heritage hub of the west and nowhere can offer what this town can in terms of history. At the jail, we are determined to make that history engaging and exciting for everyone, but especially the people of Bodmin.”
The jail will host town walking tours, including Saints & Sinners, exploring the ‘deliciously ridiculous dark tales of Bodmin as well as Bodmin’s future’, and Junior Jailers for children aged 7+ on Saturdays, with a ‘Horrible Histories’ style to bring history to life.
The locals' pass launches this month - a worthwhile investment that requires one yearly payment to allow access to the jail for the rest of the year.
Later in the year, there will be festive events with a twist, including Christmas Carols in the Courtyard on 9th December.
But as October approaches and we all prepare for the dark, mystical nights ahead, Bodmin Jail is certainly the place to be for Halloween, embracing the paranormal and eccentric history of the area between September and November. Explore the tale of the two witches associated with Bodmin with the jail’s Walking with Witches tour, an intricate look into the heartbreaking way spiritual women were treated and accused in the past.
The Heritage Go Darker Tour will delve into the dark side of Bodmin’s history and will feature grisly artifacts, while the Dead Days Tour will run in October and November and will look at the rise of spiritualism in the Victorian age. On the evening of Halloween, the museum will host the first Victorian seance at the jail for 150 years, also accompanied by a three-course meal.
“Is it haunted? Yes, of course,” Jess added. “If you like them dead and a bit twitching, then these are the events for you.”
If you live locally and would like to explore what’s on your doorstep, make sure to check out the Bodmin Jail locals' pass, available to obtain when you visit the Jail this autumn.