Bodmin Jail

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Bodmin Jail as seen from Cardell Road (note the overgrown and ruined nature of much of the building)
1779 oil painting of Sir John Call with Bodmin Jail in the background, artist unknown
The restored portion of Bodmin Jail (the building straight ahead contains a pub and exhibition)

Bodmin Jail (alternatively Bodmin Gaol) is an historic former prison situated in Bodmin, on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. Built in 1779 and closed in 1927, the large range of buildings is now largely in ruins, although parts of the prison have been turned into a tourist attraction.


Bodmin Gaol was designed by Sir John Call and built in 1779 by prisoners of war, and was operational for 150 years, in which it saw over 50 public hangings. It was the first British prison to hold prisoners in individual cells.[1]

The Debtors Act of 1869 abolished imprisonment for debt so the prison had spare space that was taken over by the Admiralty for naval prisoners. Eventually, the naval prison occupied an entire wing of the building, before it was closed in 1922.[citation needed]

During World War I the prison was deemed worthy of holding some of Britain's priceless national treasures including the Domesday Book and the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

The first hanging was apparently in 1785, but the finishing date of the jail was in 1788. Executioners were paid about £10 a hanging. The last person to be hanged was in 1909, subsequent executions took place in Exeter Prison.[citation needed]

The jail closed in 1927. Since that date, there has been no prison within the county of Cornwall.[2]


Much of the jail remains in ruins, and presents a forbidding aspect when seen from a distance. Some parts have been refurbished and these now form a tourist attraction with exhibitions telling of the history of the jail and of offenders imprisoned there.

The exhibits are not lavish and are fairly basic in design, showcasing gory mannequins accompanied with plaques, describing the offence committed by particular persons and their sentence, in their respective cells. Because of the style of exhibit, it has been likened to such attractions as The London Dungeon.[citation needed]


With its forbidding aspect, Bodmin Jail has attracted many ghost stories and paranormal researchers, and there is a ghost walk/night available for tourists.

Series 6, Episode 1 of Most Haunted, a British made reality TV show, saw the crew attempt their paranormal activities at the jail with presenter Yvette Fielding and medium, Derek Acorah. Unsuccessful with many attempts, the team supposedly made contact with many light and sound entities, whilst Acorah claimed to have been possessed by a bothered spirit named Kreed Kafer, a South African. It has since come to light that "Kreed Kafer" was a fictional character, who was created purely by parapsychologist and crew member Ciarán O'Keeffe, to test Derek Acorah and his abilities.[3] The name was created because it was an anagram of the phrase 'Derek Faker'.[4]

Notable former inmates[edit]

In Popular Culture[edit]

Bodmin Jail has featured in the BBC television program Poldark (2015 TV series) as one of the places where the show takes place.


External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°28′29″N 4°43′41″W / 50.47472°N 4.72806°W / 50.47472; -4.72806