Bodmin Life were lucky enough to be invited along to Bodmin Jail by their marketing team recently, where we got the chance to learn all about Cornwall’s harrowing past.
Bodmin Jail is famous for its haunted cells, being the last port of call for many criminals in Cornwall, including Matthew Weeks and the Lightfoot brothers, before being condemned for their crimes and meeting the hangman’s noose.
The £8.5million Bodmin Jail Experience brings the past to life with a 90-minute immersive tour led by virtual tour guide, Chief Warder Richard Amos Doidge, who oversaw the running of the jail all those years ago. The ‘Dark Walk’ experience allows visitors to discover what it meant to live in Cornwall years ago through the use of clever technology and special effects, exploring life at the 18th and 19th century jail on the outskirts of the rugged Bodmin Moor.
Bodmin Jail was built in 1779 for King George III. Since it first opened its doors - or cell doors - back then, it has seen a number of famous Cornish criminals walk through the walls of the giant stone building, including Selina Wadge, hanged for the murder of her child in 1878; Elizabeth Osborne, who committed arson on her former employer’s land and was hanged in 1813; Matthew Weeks, who was sentenced to death in 1844 after being found guilty of girlfriend Charlotte Dymond’s murder; and the Lightfoot brothers, who were condemned in 1840 after they robbed and murdered merchant Neville Conway.
The Dark Walk takes visitors on a fantastic, eerie journey through Cornwall’s past - from smugglers in caves and mining catastrophes, to life in Cornwall’s poorest areas, where you’re able to see more about the criminals’ pasts and how they found themselves facing the hangman’s noose at Bodmin Jail. The experience even gives mention to the legendary Beast of Bodmin Moor, which was thought to have been locked away in a cell after being caught on the moor and died soon after due to injury.
The Naval Wing allows visitors to peer into the old cells of times past - with children even being subject to tough punishments if they committed a crime such as stealing. There is an eerie feeling as you pass each cell - a harrowing reminder of the conditions in which the prisoners lived, and the severity of Cornwall’s Victorian justice system.
To finish the tour, visitors can experience a prisoner’s last moments at the site of the jail’s hanging pit. Bodmin Jail is home to the only working hanging pit in the UK - a terrifying point of reflection for many as you peer down to the long drop below.
To discover more about Bodmin Jail, and to book tickets to the fantastic Bodmin Jail Experience, go to https://www.bodminjail.org/