Mysterious Bodmin and the Jail

Mysterious Bodmin and the Jail

October 31, 2022

Well, we have many reasons to dedicate this month's blog to Cornwall’s oldest and most important jail, Bodmin Jail. Of course, it’s pretty fitting at this time of year, with Bodmin Jail offering all sorts of spooky tours and experiences and, as they say in their own words, “it’s always Halloween at Bodmin Jail!”. But, that’s not our only reason! We want to take a look at more than an unnerving-but-exciting Halloween trip to this fascinating attraction and the area that it calls home.

Early Jail History

Built in 1779, located on the edge of Bodmin Moor, the jail has played an important role in Cornish history. It was originally built during the reign of King George III in 1779 as part of the ground-breaking Prison Reform, and was built by military engineer Sir John Call. Building works started in the early 1770s using 20,000 tonnes of local Delank granite, and stone from the adjacent Coocoo Quarry.

Plaque of original cell conditions at Bodmin Jail
A glimpse at the original cell conditions at Bodmin Jail

The resulting building was a milestone in prison design, based on the plans and ideals of the prison reformer John Howard. It was one of the first modern prisons in the UK with individual cells, segregated male and female areas, hot water and light and airy areas for prisoners to live and work. In addition, prisoners were paid for their work from products sold by the governor.

Original cell at Bodmin Jail
Original cell at Bodmin Jail


Since sustainability is very important to us, we were thrilled to learn what action has been and continues to be taken to preserve this outstanding site.

Energy use in the attraction was considered in two very different ways. The new 'Dark Walk' building has been designed to exacting high standards, with heat loss mitigation and heat recovery technology at the forefront of the build. Existing structures have also received Radon Protection, new damp-proof floor membranes, has been insulated where possible; and received new water-tight insulated glazing behind the original cast metal window frames. Further, walls throughout the whole structure have received tens of thousands of gallons of grout internally, to ensure their stability and extend life expectancy. Smart technology floor heating within the Naval Wing will also ensure that it remains at a constant temperature throughout winter, thereby preserving its structure free of condensation.

Old cells at Bodmin Jail converted to Hotel rooms
Old Jail cells converted to Hotel rooms

When required, chimneys have been taken down and rebuilt, roofs rebuilt and re-covered, every inch of rotten wood taken out and replaced, gutters and downpipes replaced, every drain replaced. Lastly the buildings have received new wiring, fire alarms, plumbing and heating throughout. These buildings will now outlive us all!


The area around Bodmin Jail is home to nine species of bats, all needing careful consideration during the design process and construction works. Working closely with Natural England and a dedicated on-site ecologist has ensured preservation and support for the bats in the area. Works have proceeded carefully on site by timing demolition works to be compatible with the bats’ hibernation and seasonal cycles. To ensure habitats were boosted, a bespoke bat bungalow was constructed near the jail, along with incidental roosting areas incorporated into the walls of the building. The attic space of a nearby building was opened up to provide another roost, and the existing maternity roost of Horseshoe bats on site is still going strong!

Courtyard Dining at Bodmin Jail
Courtyard Dining at Bodmin Jail


Bodmin might not be up there on the ‘typical Cornish town’ to visit list, but perhaps that’s why we love it even more! Not only is it easy to access the town (and jail!) from the A30, but it is also shrouded in history - Bodmin Moor is a deeply historic place, home to countless ancient monuments, such as the Hurlers, Rillaton Barrow, the Trippet Stones, Leskernick and other menhirs, cairns and settlements. The south-east corner of the moor forms part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. Another fascinating fact, despite Truro being the capital of Cornwall, Bodmin still retains the official County Town status, even today. In preparation for your next pub quiz…you’re welcome!

Engine House
Engine House

Eerie Bodmin Moor

Now, although Bodmin Moor is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty… which in our humble opinion, it really is! It is also home to some eerie sites and stories, adding to its magic! Being centrally located, it’s no wonder that it is also the heart of Folklore. We have already covered the jail so, I think we must move on to The Jamaica Inn. Immortalised by author Daphne Du Maurier, with stories of smuggling and thick mysterious mists, the Inn has also been featured in some paranormal activity articles to date and is an attraction for thrill seekers from all over. Moving on to possibly more of a popular story (one that still makes the headlines now and then), the Beast of Bodmin Moor or the Phantom Cat, there have been reported sightings and stories of Leopard-like cats that have helped themselves to some of the local livestock and more…not that we think you’ll happen upon this particular feline on your hikes, but still…worth mentioning since it seems, the topic arises every now and then.

Du Maurier Plaque in Fowey
Du Maurier statue in Fowey

And finally, although you can find out more about many more stories and fables if this tickles your fancy, this is one of our featured sites on our Historical Landscapes tour, The Hurlers. The legend attached to them says that men from two parishes broke the sabbath day by playing the Cornish national sport hurling and because it was on the holy day, they were punished by being turned into stone where they stood. We feel a bit harsh of a punishment, but who are we to comment after all?

Hurlers Stone Circle
Hurlers Stone Circle

To find out more information on tours and experiences that feature this fascinating and magical town you can get in contact here

Happy Halloween!

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