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Bodmin Jail - Haunted Places in Cornwall

Updated on October 6, 2016
Haunted Places in Cornwall: Bodmin Jail
Haunted Places in Cornwall: Bodmin Jail | Source

History of Bodmin Jail

Bodmin Jail was built in 1779, for King George III. It was the prisoners themselves who had to haul the 20,000 tons of granite from Cuckoo Quarry in Bodmin to the site of the jail.

Although mostly ruins now, Bodmin Jail was bought in 2004 by a family who have set out to restore it to its former glory. The funding for doing this comes from the visitor admission charges, the on-site restaurant, regular themed events and their famous all night ghost patrols and ghost tours.

As it stands at the moment, Bodmin Jail is missing the roof - and most of the floors have rotted away, leaving the exterior walls of a tall granite building.

Over 50 people were hanged at Bodmin Jail during its 150 years of operating as a jail. During its time it's housed prisoners in four separate sections: The Civil Prison for Women, The Civil Prison for Men, The Debtors Prison, The Naval Prison.

In 1869 the law changed in England, and it was no longer an imprisonable offence to be in debt. As a lot of prisoners in Bodmin Jail were there because of debt, this meant they had spare capacity, so Bodmin Jail was taken over by the Admiralty to hold naval prisoners.

Bodmin Jail was wound down and finally closed between 1922.-1927.

The Crown Jewels and The Domesday Book

During times of war, the Government have to find safe hiding places for national treasures, important and historical documents as well as precious artwork and goods.

It was during the first World War, 1914-1918, that Bodmin Jail was used to safely store:

  • the Domesday Book
  • the Crown Jewels

Nearby Carnglaze Caverns were also used to store nationally important treasures during wartimes.

Haunted Places in Cornwall: Bodmin Jail Gatehouse .  CC-SA-2
Haunted Places in Cornwall: Bodmin Jail Gatehouse . CC-SA-2 | Source

Hangings at Bodmin Jail

During its 150 years as a jail, more than 50 people were hanged there. The first was in 1785 and the last was in 1909.

Men, women and children were held at Bodmin Jail - and hanged. Hangings were often public events, held in the Jail itself, or outside in the grounds.

The Executioners were paid just £10 for each hanging they performed.

Some Hangings At Bodmin Jail:

  • Autumn 1741: John Harris, for horse theft
  • Autumn 1742: William Francis, for sheep stealing
  • 14 April 1777: Stephen Harris, for burglary
  • 13 April 1786: Thomas Roberts, for stealing sheep
  • 20 April 1786: Francis Coath, for stealing sheep
  • 23 March 1796: George Selfcombe, for murder
  • 11 August 1796: John Hoskin, 55, for stealing a sheep
  • 5 September 1820: Michael Stephens, 27, for killing a ram and stealing it
  • 21 August 1834: William Hocking, 57, for bestiality.
  • 13 April 1840: William Lightfoot and James Lightfoot for the murder of Nevell Norway
  • 20 August 1844: Matthew Weeks, 23, for the murder of his girlfriend Charlotte Dymond*

Penalties were harsh and people could be hung for quite trivial events, such as stealing corn, but they might have done this because they were starving.

The last person to be hanged at Bodmin Jail was William Hampton:

  • 20 July 1909: William Hampton, 24, for the murder of his girlfriend Emily Tredrea.

* This was an infamous case. You can visit the Shire Hall, where Matthew Weeks was tried, and observe a re-enactment of his trial, before deciding if you think Matthew Weeks was guilty or innocent: Matthew Weeks' Trial Reenactment

Bodmin Jail Ghosts

With over 300 years of history, 150 years as a jail and 50 hangings, it's no great surprise that Bodmin Jail is reputedly haunted.

Bodmin Jail regularly run ghost tours, including an all night event where you wander around the site all night with a torch, waiting for ghosts. At the end of this is a hearty breakfast in the restaurant.

  • One ghost is that of Selina Wadge, aged 28 - a mother who was convicted and hanged for the killing of one of her two children, aged 2. It is said Selina's ghost reaches out to small children, and also brings pregnant women feelings of guilt and remorse. Children have been known to ask about the crying lady in the long dress that they can see.

Bodmin Jail Restaurant:

Bodmin Jail's restaurant is called the Warders Room, where you'll find a selection of home-cooked hot and cold lunches or a proper Cornish cream tea. Main meal prices are in the range £11-18.

The restaurant is, spookily, within sight of the execution shed at Bodmin Jail, making for a memorable dining experience!

Alternatively, why not try out the Witness Box wine bar.

Haunted Places in Cornwall: Bodmin Jail
Haunted Places in Cornwall: Bodmin Jail | Source

Around the Bodmin Area

As a day out, Bodmin Jail wouldn't fill your time, so what else is there to see and do?

Bodmin Jail is situated at the start of the Camel Trail. The Camel Trail is a walking and cycling lane that follows the route of the old Padstow railway line. You could hire a bicycle and cycle the Camel Trail to Wadebridge, or you could walk it. The terrain is flat and wide, so suitable for all walkers (except in wet weather when it has the potential to get a little boggy for those of limited mobility or in a wheelchair).  Bike hire for the Camel Trail is right outside the Jail, by the Stone Cross.

Just outside of Bodmin, at the Helland Bridge, which is the oldest, medieval, bridge in Cornwall, there's the Old Mill Herbary. Here you'll find acres of well laid out pastures, trees, herbs and wildflowers. There's ample free parking at this herb farm, but there's a charge to walk round the extensive grounds.

Alternatively, why not take a steam train ride on the Bodmin to Wenford steam railway. The trains run daily on the one hour return journey between Bodmin main railway station and Bodmin Parkway station.

Bodmin Jail Timeline

Bodmin Jail designed by John Howard and built for King George III
The first hanging was held at Bodmin Jail.
The building of Bodmin Jail was complete.
Bodmin jail rebuilt and extended as it was over-crowded.
The Debtors Act meant it was no longer an imprisonable offence to be in debt, so the Admiralty started using Bodmin Jail for naval prisoners.
William Hampton was the last person to be hanged at Bodmin Jail. He murdered his girlfriend Emily Tredrea.
Bodmin Jail held important Govt documents safe during the War - including the Domesday Book. The Crown Jewels were also held at Bodmin Jail during this period.
Bodmin Jail was run down and eventually closed.
New owners bought Bodmin Jail and set about restoring it.
Bodmin Jail:
Berrycombe View, Bodmin, Cornwall PL31 2NR, UK

get directions

Directions to Bodmin Jail

Bodmin Jail is right in the middle of Bodmin town.

Opening Hours: Open 7 days a week, from 10am to dusk. The Restaurant is open from 10am-10pm.

Admission Prices: FREE. Yes, there's no charge to visit Bodmin Jail, although there is a charge to go inside the prison rooms, which is Adults £6, Children (5-16) £3.75, Disabled £3.50. Parking is also free.

Address: Berrycombe View, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL31 2NR
Telephone: 01208 76292



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    • Muckypup profile image


      4 years ago

      As bloody as the history of Bodmin Jail is, I really like the pictures on your hub showing the old architecture, especially the exterior façade of the building - it must be an eerie pace to visit though!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      8 years ago from San Francisco

      Bodmin Jail sure sounds like a creepy place! I'd love to go on the ghost tour!!

      This is a great guide- the photos are fantastic and I appreciate the timeline too! Thanks for writing the hub XD


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