Visiting historic locations around Cornwall is enlightening, educational and entertaining, however it’s often focused on the rich and influential or the hardworking miners that made the county what it is today. It’s rarely about those who didn’t do anything to help the Cornish people at all. Those who just caused trouble, did the crime and served the time. Well, this historic location in Bodmin is a little bit different. Welcome to an attraction that’s all about the county’s ne’er-do-wells.
Bodmin Jail, an attraction near the centre of the Cornish town, was built for King George III in 1779 and the prison that can be toured today was constructed with the help of inmates who brought more than 20,000 tons of granite from a nearby quarry. The old heating and cooling systems can still be explored by visitors, as can this building’s unique design, architecture and engineering. It is steeped in history and teaches visitors all about what penal life in Cornwall was like across hundreds of years.
On your visit, you can wander into the cells and imagine what it was like to be locked up in the 18th century. You can also browse many creative exhibits throughout the attraction that fill you in on what life was like behind bars in Victorian Cornwall and during other eras in the county’s history. One highlight is the Execution Shed where criminals were hung during Victorian times. In fact, the last man to ever be executed in Cornwall bit the dust in this hanging pit – the only one of its kind in the UK.
A new ‘Dark Walk’ inside the jail, which underwent a £40 million redevelopment early in 2021, is quickly becoming the star attraction here. Theatrical effects and lighting combine to create a spooky-yet-thrilling experience for anyone over the age of eight. Heartstopping effects are used alongside loud noises as vivid stories are told in this historically grim building. Of course, countless ghost stories abound at Bodmin Jail, with some people calling it the UK’s ‘most haunted location’. For adults, you can spend the night and see if your nerve holds out as the ghouls and ghosties come to play. Plus, there are ‘scary cinema nights’ held once a week for adults that entail watching a horror film and then touring the jail with a medium. Check the jail’s website for details of these special events.
There’s a gift shop at the attraction, as well as the Jolly Hangman Tavern that does pub grub and beers with perfect execution. It really does make for a day spent doing something different, slightly spooky and totally fascinating. So yeah, take the ball and chain and prepare for a lock-in at Bodmin Jail. It really would be criminal to miss out on this unique attraction.