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.
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.
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.
The jail closed in 1927. Since that date, there has been no prison within the county of Cornwall.
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.
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. The name was created because it was an anagram of the phrase 'Derek Faker'.
Notable former inmates
In Popular Culture
Bodmin Jail has featured in the BBC television program Poldark (2015 TV series) as one of the places where the show takes place.
- D. L. Prior, ‘Call, Sir John, first baronet (1732–1801)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 18 Sept 2008
- "Plans for new faith-based prison". BBC Online (BBC). 2009-11-09. Retrieved 2010-10-11.
- Spooky Truth: TV's Most Haunted Con Exposed - Mirror.Co.Uk
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