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History with Bodmin Town Museum

A look at Bodmin’s past, By Marion Adams, curator

Bodmin Town Museum is open and ready to welcome both visitors and locals alike, with displays to look at, wartime radio broadcasts to listen or dance to, a children’s quiz to complete, plus souvenirs and museum-published books to purchase. There really is something for everyone.

After a long wait, the museum has a refurbished office and more storage space. With the continued support of our many volunteers we always think positively and are optimistic in our outlook.

There will soon be a new Bodmin Town Museum publication on the history of St Benets Abbey, Lanivet, researched by one of our volunteers. Circumstances only allowed for one new display this year and it is the ‘Roaring Twenties’, looking at Bodmin in 1924 with articles on fashion, transport, leisure activities and items associated with local groups, including football, tennis and golf.

Bodmin is a fascinating historic county town with a wealth of history to explore. From the time of St Guron and later St Petroc, Bodmin became an important place. Around the Priory and church, the town grew and in 938 King Athelstan is recorded as granting this area to St Petroc’s monastery.

The Domesday Book mentions only one town in Cornwall; Bodmin and its Priory remained the most influential body until Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1538. Very soon after, the townspeople began to demolish the Priory Church and the remaining inhabitable buildings were leased then sold to Thomas Sternhold. In 1567, his daughter sold the Priory to John Rashleigh, the Fowey merchant, and he divided the property into several small tenements which were leased for more than 200 years.

Seventeenth and eighteenth century sources record malthouses and a tanyard within the priory precinct and during the eighteenth century the remaining part of the former priory church was used for metal working.

Other parts continued as domestic accommodation. A building referred to as the ‘Great House’ in the mid-18th century was demolished for the construction of Priory House. William Pennington had bought the site in 1788 and 20 years later the present Priory House was built.

Eminent bell founders, his granddaughter married Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert and the Gilberts held the Priory and its grounds until 1948.

For more information about Bodmin Town Museum, visit


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