Cornwall’s County Gaol to re-open after an £8.5 million re-development
This May, one of Cornwall’s leading historical sites, is unlocking its doors for a brand new era, unveiling a new-look and ‘Dark Walk’ visitor experience. As part of a wider, £40 million re-development of the Jail, visitors will be able to discover Cornwall’s most haunting histories in a truly immersive and interactive way.
The ‘Dark Walk’, the first of its kind in Cornwall, will use theatrical effects and the latest technology to transport visitors back to Cornwall’s murky past, enabling a first-hand experience of the penal life of a working 18th century prison on the fringes of Bodmin Moor.
Retold for 21st century audiences, the haunting cinematic visual experience will tell stories of smuggling, mining and everyday hardships facing Cornwall’s poorest, including tales from infamous prisoners such as Elizabeth Osborne, Selina Wadge and the Lightfoot Brothers, who paid the ultimate price at the hangman’s rope.
Visitors will start their experience by joining Sir John Call in a secret undiscovered vault behind his library, before being guided down a staircase to delve into the history of the Jail. Sir John was the man responsible for the design and building of Bodmin Jail in 1779 – at the time, this County Gaol was at the forefront of prison design and reform.
Shortly after arrival, visitors will be plunged into darkness and 18th century Cornwall, their journey narrated by Chief Warder Richard Amos Doidge, whose knowledge about the jail and Cornwall’s secret past was unparalleled.
The ‘Dark Walk’ moves through a series of themed Cornish scenes, starting with ancient abandoned mines and caverns where the shadows of former miners and smugglers lurk in the wings, before leading on to the stark wilderness of Bodmin Moor where disease and robbery was rife. Here the myth of the terrifying Bodmin Beast comes to life through innovative CGI technology.
Leaving the dock of Bodmin’s Assizes Court, visitors face a cold walk along the court tunnel to the Jail’s original Naval Wing, getting a first-hand look at what the dreary days and nights behind bars were really like, with grimy cells, prison punishments and stories of child criminals taking centre stage as visitors wander through the original Jail corridors.
The journey continues up and through to the Administration Block and the Governor’s Office, delving deeper into the mechanics of running a hard Victorian prison and the history of its many inmates, routing through the haunting condemned cell, and ending with the chance to discover the only working execution pit in the country.
Built in 1779 for King George III, Bodmin Jail has played an important role in Cornwall’s history and this bold re-development gives visitors the chance to delve into an intriguing hidden history. A massive investment in Cornwall’s tourism and visitor economy, this is set to be the biggest attraction opening for 2020 with its state-of-the-art technology allowing for a more immersive experience.
As part of the wider £40 million investment in Bodmin Jail, a 4-star 70 room boutique hotel, which is due to open in late 2020, is also being built within the walls of the Grade II listed building, retaining many original features.