There are many stories and tales regarding Jackdaws and their mysteries. The Jackdaws of Bodmin Jail have their own story and history.
According to legend the first Jackdaws arrived at the jail in November of 1846 after their owner was incarcerated and included them in her crimes.
As the legend goes Rose Wright was born in Luxulyan (a small village located on the edge of Bodmin Moor) sometime in early 1811, she was known as a witch in her local community. For many years she was held with fear and respect within the village, she would make herbal remedies and “potions” for people to help with their ailments. As the story goes, one year there was a drought and the villagers blamed Rose and her witchcraft – where once there was fear there was now hatred and anger. They shunned her, and she now had no means to make money to provide for herself.
Image taken from flickr.com
Rose lived near the woods, and this was where she gathered her herbs for her remedies. She became lonely, ignored by the village people she had once counted as friends, and over time she reportedly made friends with the animals living within the woods. Among these were the Jackdaws: an intelligent bird which has always had empathy and affinity towards humans. They also have a love of shiny things, like their larger cousins the Magpies. Unlike Magpies, however, Jackdaws are quick and nimble, and their size means they can get in out of tighter spaces and create mischief!
Allegedly, Rose became aware of this by pure chance as one of her feathered friends brought her a gift of a few shillings it had stolen from one of the villagers. This gave Rose an idea: she could use the Jackdaws to steal money/items for her, she was desperate and did not want to starve. She spent some time training her pets, they learned quickly, so soon she had amassed a small haul of jewellery and coins. Obviously, this did not go unnoticed by the villagers of Luxulyan and they demanded the local gentry and law deal with Rose.
Accounts say that Rose was arrested and incarcerated at the jail after her conviction on November 19th, 1846, she was 36 years old. Rose was unfortunately ill upon arrival at the prison due to malnutrition and dysentery caused by her poor diet after her shunning. The Jackdaws came with her, and stories are told of them being mischievous; they would harass the guards and other prisoners -making noises throughout the night and being a nuisance within the Jail walls. They would try to steal the cell keys from the guards, but they were unsuccessful – Rose died in her damp & grimy cell on January 13th 1847, 2 months after her incarceration, weak and frail from her long-standing illness.
The Jackdaws did not leave after her death – the story tells that Rose put a curse upon the jail and the county town of Bodmin ‘should the last Jackdaw be born at Bodmin Gaol, so the spirits of the condemned shall rise and bring misfortune and chaos to all that reside within’.
Posted: 31st July 2019 By: Tara Jones
Jess is one of our Jail Guides, and has been voted Staff Member of the Month by our lovely visitors.
Always bright and chirpy, with a talent for telling the best stories ‘Miranda Stylie’ Jess is a very knowledgeable member of the Jail team who will enhance your visit with fun and educating tales.
You can find our Jail Guides haunting the different levels of the Jail between 11am – 3pm, Monday – Friday; answering your queries about the Jail’s history, and regaling entertaining stories of previous inmates and their wrong-doings…
Posted: 25th May 2018 By: Tara Jones
Posted: 28th March 2018 By: Tara Jones
The on-going development of the Jail site has enabled us to add more features to enhance our visitor experience – this month we have introduced:
– every Wednesday night from 8.30pm to the witching hour… take a guided walk through Bodmin Town to view key points & buildings, and hear all about their historical & paranormal links with the Jail, finishing with a Paranormal Tour of the Jail.
– learn about the history of the jail and our plans for the future…
– we now have friendly free-roaming guides within the jail; pass the time of day in the knowledgeable company of Jess & Kirsten and learn more about the jail, its history & future, and its nefarious past residents. We also have personal Guided Tours available to book in advance.
– discover more about the science of paranormal.
Posted: 6th March 2018 By: Tara Jones
As rays of sunlight pierce the broken glass of the cell windows and cast
their warming light deep into the derelict cells, you can’t help but think of
the men that did time in those four cells ripped apart by the demolition
blast of 1930.
One can’t help but also admire the work of the builders who,
some 160 years ago so skillfully built the formidable Civil Wing here at
Robert Goodyear & Sons of Adelaide Street, East Stonehouse in Plymouth,
certainly were master craftsman, and the responsibility of preserving their
work now falls upon another generation of skilled craftsman and stonemasons
to ensure the buildings are here to admire in another 160 years.
Work is underway and scheduled for completion in 2019 – keep watching for
Posted: 5th March 2018 By: Tara Jones
Jess completes her first piece of work at the Jail
The tragic tale of Selina Wadge has been depicted in this original artwork – Jess has spent many hours snuggled under the heat-lamp in the old key-room down in the Jail; sculpting with care, her vision of Selina’s story and subsequent crime she committed.
The image is full of symbolism specific to Selina; frogs and frog spawn, moths, baby bird skulls and prison mice.
“I drowned the child.
I put it in the water.
Lord deliver me from this miserable world.”
The idea is to make the viewer think about Selina’s crime and her guilt; the frogs are from the well, the spawn and bird skulls represent children. The moths are symbols of the spirit.
The wording is the actual words Selina spoke, and she holds in her hand her handkerchief, as recorded at her execution…
Jess talks us through her creative process –
“Each cutting starts off with a story. I usually select a phrase or an image to work with first, from this the rest of the cutting develops. The size of the cutting is really dependant on the space I have to work on – sometimes that comes down to putting tables together to give the most surface area.
I then draw a grid on the paper and sketch the words onto the grid; this helps me with letter size and spacing. Once the wording is in place, I draw in some of the larger elements, in the case of Selena Wadge, this was the mice, frogs and cobwebs. From here, I then draw in the connecting elements, foliage, frog spawn, smaller insects. It is this process that takes the most time.
Every part of the picture has to touch, mess that up and the whole thing will fall apart. To further complicate matters, the image is drawn in reverse so you have a clean image after the cutting when you turn the paper over. Writing letters backwards is never easy!
Once the outline is drawn, I start cutting. There is no real technique for this, I tend to start with the letters and outline and then work into middle. You can never be really certain how the image will work until the piece is finished.
Each picture is designed to tell the original story through image and wording, but they are also created to be visually intricate with hidden details and symbols. At the end of the day, they are about tales, and my intention is for each one to speak to the viewer in whatever way they want to see it and hopefully carry the story on.”
Follow Jess on Facebook and see more of her fantastical creations on Etsy
Posted: 7th December 2017 By: Tara Jones
Our Commercial Manager, Chris, donned his brave pants and a hard hat this week to join the survey team in a tiny, wire enclosed ‘basket’ suspended 120ft above the ground: a perfect platform from which to see the extent of the mammoth task that is ahead of us in renovating this lovely heritage site to secure it’s future.
You can see in some of the images the extent of the damage to stonework by years of vegetation penetrating the nooks and crannies. Large areas of collapsed masonry and eroded stacks are gradually being uncovered. Crumbled debris lies strewn where once hob-nailed boots stomped and chains clanged, as inmates and warders went about their daily routines…
Posted: 15th November 2017 By: Tara Jones
Meet the latest addition to our Jail inmates –
talented Artist in Residence Jess Marlton: Jess recently graduated from Falmouth University with a First in Authoritative Illustration.
Her work during this time focused on monsters and it was here that she developed the theme of whimsical macabre. Through the medium of paper cutting, Jess uses the figure of the monster to investigate what we consider to be monstrous, and ultimately to invite the viewer to question who the monster is.
Jess’ work at Bodmin Jail focuses on the prison’s infamous inmates as well as Cornish folklore. The paper cuts produced in residence are designed to carry tales of the prison and to address new ways of story telling.
Find out more about Jess
Posted: By: Tara Jones
Most tourist attractions in Cornwall may be drifting purposefully towards the end of a busy tourist season, but here at the Jail we are still full speed ahead organising a raft of exciting and spooky Halloween events for all the family; from our Children’s Fancy Dress Party and Scary Cinema Night, to After Dark and Murder Mystery Dinner, there’s something for all ages. You can find out more on our ‘Events’ tab.
Recent visitors to the Jail may have noticed furtive, hi-viz clad, goings-on, as we start Phase-1 of our site development and restoration. The site has been invaded by a throng of hard working scaffolders, architects, and project managers, all intent on creating an amazing restoration and expansion of the old Jail.
To ensure our visitors still get a full experience of life, and death, in this infamous County Jail we have a thorough plan in place to keep disruption to a minimum during this period, and keep as much of the Jail accessible to the public as possible.
Visitors can also browse our story boards depicting the development plans, and see details of the restoration and expansion work that will be carried out over the next 18months.
This month we have moved some of the exhibits to new sites within the old Jail while reconstruction begins. Our outside seating and picnic area has now moved to the lovely courtyard in front of the main building; a real sun trap, and warm enough for shirt sleeves on a sunny day, even in October!
Ground clearance and the removal of land-fill has started behind the Jail, and the arrival of an absolutely HUGE crane in the old exercise yard this week has sparked excited chattering from our neighbours.
There is a real buzz in the local community and genuine excitement to watch this massive project get underway!
Excavation work of the old Hospital Wing is just beginning; this will be the site of a brand new attraction entrance and informative displays.
For the first time since 1931 the towering, grand walls of the Civil Wing cell block, have been cleared of loose debris and damaging plant growth. Buddleia, rampant Ivy, and various other shrubs & small trees have established themselves over the decades; their roots invading the nooks and crannies of the stonework, creating cracks and undermining the structure of the walls. The beautiful local stone can now be seen in all its glory.
As the title says, ‘We’re still open!’
Admittedly, we are currently on our winter opening hours 9.30am – 6pm, but this is 7 days a week, so loads of opportunity to come along and enjoy a visit to the Jail, and have a nosey at the development works at the same time!
This is the start of a very exciting new period in the Jail’s history, and you can follow our development and restoration through this blog page, or follow us on Facebook for the latest instalment!
Posted: 24th October 2017 By: Tara Jones