100 Stories Completion List

100 Stories Complete List

1. Gibbet Cage

Following execution, an individual convicted of murder would be placed in a gibbet cage at the site of the crime. This acted as a warning to others and denied the criminal Heaven - no consecrated ground, no complete body, no resurrection.

This gibbet cage joined the Jail's collection at some point in the last 100 years and isn't associated with a specific individual, however, its presence is a stark reminder of the punishment given out as part of the 1751 Murder Act.

2. Shot Drill

This original shot drill survived the sale and asset stripping of the Jail in 1929.

It would have been used as part of a reforming schedule for prisoners who would have carried weights like this backwards and forwards for an allotted time.

While the whole exercise may seem pointless it was designed to break the spirit and body of the prisoners in order that they be more compliant.

3. Whip

1831 - Charles Lawrence of Mylor, mariner, indicted for stealing a silver watch, a steel watch chain and seal and watchkey, property of James Nicholls: three months hard labour in Bodmin gaol and private whipping.

In 1948 the practice of whipping prisoners ended in England.

4. Cradle

It was not unheard of for babies to be incarcerated with mothers if there was nowhere else for the child to go.

No food provision was offered to children under 6 months old.

5. Cat Skull

There are many strange tales associated with Bodmin Jail and the Beast of Bodmin is one of them. Long has it been said that a wild animal lives on Bodmin Moor, stealing livestock and terrifying wayward travellers.

In 1999 RAF reserve volunteers used state of the art equipment to try and catch a glimpse of the creature. Their results were inconclusive.

On our schools tours we regularly reassure nervous children that the beast is only growling because he wants his lunch, a tuna sandwich being his favourite choice.

6. Stuffed Bird

Jackdaws have chosen the Jail as their home for over 100 years.

When the site was a ruin, employees would frequently rescue them from cells and release them in the courtyard.

Today they nest in the turnkey cottage and their fledgings make a clamour and a clatter all spring.

7. Antlers

Over the last 100 years many curious objects have been found in and around the Jail including these antlers.

This room was originally a storage room at the back of a kitchen, so perhaps a former employee squirrelled these away for safe keeping.

8. Handcuffs

Original Jail handcuffs dating from the 1850s. Earlier versions of such restraints would have been 'irons' and prisoners might have been expected to wear them all the time.

9. Grandfather Clock

Punctuality was key to the running of Bodmin Jail. Days were structured around hard labour, chapel and exercise.

In the silence of the Jail the ticking of a clock and the sound of quiet, pacing footsteps might have been all your heard.

10. Hammer

The hammer is arguably the first tool lifted by prehistoric man, and despite advancing digital technology it remains an essential tool in many aspects of modern life.

In parallel to the development of the human brain, the hammer evolved along myriad paths to appear in the tool boxes of many professions, from stonemasons and blacksmiths to astronauts.

More importantly, however, hammers and mallets are essential tools for orthopaedic surgeons. Hammers would have been used in the hospital wing of the prison, the foundations of which can still be traced in the Dark Walk.

11. Soap

In order avoid hard labour, especially the feared treadwheel, prisoners would swallow soap to bring on a low fever which made it impossible to undertake such an activity.

12. Hand of Glory

Gallows souvenirs were not unusual. A doctor might purchase a cadaver from the gibbet, the public might collect clothes or hair or blood.

But prized until the mid 1800s was the hand of a hanged man.

Said to open any lock, a Hand of Glory as they were known were also imbued with the power of healing.

13. Arsenic Mouse

Our little arsenic mouse was first used on the Sarah Polgrean True Crime Trail in the summer of 2022.

The crime, committed in 1820, involved the use of arsenic in butter which Sarah used to poison her husband, Henry.

14. Arsenic Bottle

Prior to the Pharmacy Act 1868, arsenic could be readily brought.

A murderer's favourite method of despatch, the lethal everyday presence in everything from candles to clothing, wallpaper and cosmetics, arsenic was part and parcel of Victorian life.

Sarah Polgrean was executed at Bodmin Jail for poisoning her husband using arsenic mixed with butter.

15. Witch's Bottle

The Heritage crew created this witch's bottle for the Witches True Crime Trail in 2022.

Bottles dated from the 1500s and may have contained fingernails, blood, urine, feathers and hair.

They were used to ward off witches or to curse individuals. Ours has blackcurrant cordial in it.

16. Giant Keys

Many keys have been found in and around the Jail.

These keys were presented to our Operations Manager in a local pub by an individual who claimed they were the Gatehouse keys.

A tall tale!

17. Wonky Cat

There are many disturbing items at Bodmin Jail, but 'Wonky Cat' as he has become known is an employee favourite.

One-eyed, bedraggled and with a definite lean, he was found locally and has been used to represent a less than wholesome childhood many suffered here at the Jail.

18. Butter Dish

It is unlikely that Sarah Polgrean would have had a butter dish as fancy as this one, however, her butter and arsenic combination saw the end of her husband, Henry, in 1820.

This crystal dish was used in the Jail after its sale in 1929.

19. Bird's Nest

At Bodmin Jail, we collect oddities and curios just as countless people before us have.

This bird's nest came from an employee's garden and has been used for a witch trail.

20. Mouse With Wings

In 1645 Anne Jefferies was locked up in Bodmin for claiming the power of healing.

The witch hunts were at their height in East Anglia and the west wasn't given to stomach a witch either.

One way to identify a witch was through their familiar, in Anne's case we picked a small winged mouse to represent her.

Anne claimed that fairies had given her powers to her.

21. Bucket

Indoor sanitation for the 1700 and 1800s.

22. Noose

Original hanging rope is rare.

This rope has been used to demonstrate the long drop since the 1990s.

In the 1900s hanging rope had to be returned to the supplier after use to stop the lucrative trade in selling it after an execution.

23. Casino Chips

In the 1970s, the Bodmin Jail Night Club and Casino had a rather disreputable reputation.

Open from 2pm until 4am Sunday to Friday a mixed crowd was known to gather in the Chapel to spin the roulette wheel.

24. Snake

The infamous "99" Club in the Old Prison Bodmin Jail was advertised as 'The Clink with a Drink.'

On Wednesday nights Madam Mai Liu would dance with a snake for the crowd's entertainment.

25. Mammoth Tooth

A most curious object, this mammoth tooth was discovered on site in the 1970s.

26. Bottles & Jars

Found around the site in the 1980s, these bottles now form part of the collection of curios held by the Jail.

27. Original Keys

The story goes that when the Jail was officially closed in 1927, the staff threw the keys in the hanging pit to make it as hard as possible for the next people to get access to the building.

These keys were found at the moment of the hanging pit in the 1980s.

28. Portrait of Richard Doidge

Owner of the finest moustache, Richard Amos Doidge was the last Warden at the Jail.

It was said that he often brought his young daughter to work as his office was warmer than his home on Watery Lane.

29. Death Masks

For those who couldn't attend a hanging, death masks were made of the condemned and displayed after the event.

The Jail had the originals of the Lightfoot brothers but these were sold to an American collector in the 1970s.

30. Skelly Tom

If you were executed for murder, your body might have been placed in a gibbet cage following death and then left to rot.

Skeleton Tom, as he is know, represents just such a fate.

31. Box of Hanging Equipment

By the 1900s hangmen were regulated and their equipment supplied in advance of an execution. Prior to this, rope could be sold after a hanging.

32. Portrait of Sir John Call

Sir John Call, English engineer and baronet, was responsible for building the original Jail in 1779.

33. Portrait of John Howard

John Howard was appointed High Sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1773.

Rather than delegating his duties to the under-sheriff as was customary, Howard inspected the county prison himself.

He was shocked by what he found, and spurred into action to inspect prisons throughout England. Having visited several hundred prisons across England, Scotland, Wales and wider Europe, Howard published the first edition of The State of the Prisons in 1777.

It included very detailed accounts of the prisons he had visited, including plans and maps, together with detailed instructions on the necessary improvements, especially regarding hygiene and cleanliness, the lack of which was causing many deaths.

It is this work that has been credited as establishing the practice of single-celling in the United Kingdom.

34. Charlotte Dymond Stone

The Charlotte Dymond memorial stone on Roughtor is located on the northern edge of Bodmin Moor.

It marks the scene of the murder of Charlotte in 1844.

35. Honey Street

Honey Street in Bodmin was the original main through the town.

Home to Grade II listed buildings and an original pillar from the monastery that once stood on priory park.

36. Anniversary Wreath

The dates of Bodmin's hanging are marked with this wreathe by the employees throughout the year

37. Bowl of Food

While food provisions look meagre to us, they might have been more than people were getting on the outside.

This led in part to repeat offenders.

38. Plague Doctor Mask

Plague doctors wore masks such as these, the beaks stuff with herbs, in the belief that the smell would stop disease spreading like a miasma.

Similar masks were also work when working with cholera.

39. Children In Jail

The age of criminal responsibility wasn't set until the 1900s, prior to this children might have found themselves in prison or sent for transportation.

The youngest child we know of in Bodmin Jail was aged six years old and was locked up for vagrancy.

40. Corndoll

A Cornish rural tradition was to make a corn figure – sometimes called the Corn Mother, the Corn Maiden, or even the Old Woman – from the last of the harvested corn.

This way the spirit of the harvest is embodied by the corn figure which is kept throughout the year.

For the people of Cornwall, these traditions would have held a special significance and it is possible that dolls such as this one would have been brought into the jail for good luck.

 

41. Behind The Door

Allegedly one of the most haunted cells lie behind this wall.

The energy within is said to be drawn to young men.

42. Jail Model

This model shows the Victorian layout of the prison including the hospital wing which was formally the debtor's prison.

43. Handkerchief

Selina Wadge, executed for infanticide in 1878, was said to have carried a handkerchief to the gallows which she was still holding after the drop.

44. Matthew Week's Letter

Whilst in prison awaiting execution, Matthew Weeks wrote a letter to his landlady in which he told her how much he loved Charlotte Dymond, the young lady he had been convicted of murdering, and in which he warned men to be wary of love.

45. Blood Stained Shirt

Matthew Weeks was convicted of the murder of Charlotte Dymond in 1844 on very flimsy evidence.

One such item was one of his shirts the sleeve of which was flecked with blood.

46. Matthew Week's Boots

Matthew Weeks was convicted of the murder of Charlotte Dymond in 1844 on very flimsy evidence.

One such item was a set of boot prints taken at the site of the crime which matched a pair of Matthew's boots.

Before the prints were taken, it is estimated that nearly 2000 people visited the crime scene looking for clues.

47. Dried Posy of Flowers

Matthew Weeks and Charlotte Dymond stepped out one fine spring afternoon for a walk on the moor.

Charlotte's body would be discovered over a week later, her throat cut. A posy such as this was given to her by Matthew.

48. Graffiti on Walls

The graffiti on the walls is original and dates from the 1970s and 1980s when local kids would sneak in.

49. Slate with Writing

Forming one of the shelves in an original cell, this piece of slate was discovered during the renovation.

50. Oakum Picking

Oakum was salty, tarry rope that inmates would be asked to pull apart strand by strand.

This was used to line the hulls of boats. This form of activity was frequently given to children.

51. The Crank

A method of physical reform, prisoners would be asked to turn the crank up to 15,000 times.

The activity did nothing, it was pointless. But this was the entirely the point as the process was meant to break you, physically and mentality.

52. Treadwheel

Designed to sweat the sin out of you, the treadwheel was barbaric, torturous and dangerous.

Inmates would just walk on the machine for four hours, no talking, no stopping, no excuses.

53. Copy of the Bible

On arrival at the prison, each inmate would have been given a copy of the Bible and Pilgrim's Progress.

This would form part of their spiritual reeducation.

54. Bathtub

One bath every three months, unless you were a debtor in which case bathing seen as necessary. Debtors were those individuals who were imprisoned for lack of money.

This group of prisoners constituted the biggest reason anyone was in prison and they were considered the lowest of the low and therefore not worthy of having a wash.

55. William Marwood

William Marwood has been credited with introducing the 'Long Drop' hanging method - a calculated length of rope based on an individual's physicality and designed to break your neck instantly.

The short drop, used previously, might well have resulted in a slow strangulation.

56. Selina Wadge Letter

James Westwood wrote on several occasions to Selina Wadge.

Whether or not he manipulated or coerced her into her actions (she committed infanticide) is open to debate.

This letter is a replica on one held in Redruth records office.

57. Apple

Was Selina Wadge innocent or guilty of the murder of her youngest child?

She would have walked from her cell on the morning of 15th August 1878 knowing the truth in her heart.

The Jail is driven to keep the memory of such individuals alive, to tell their stories and to present their lives as though they had just walked out of the room.

58. Heating Vent

It is unlikely that anyone really wanted to be in Bodmin Jail, however, its reforming methods dictated a degree of hygiene, nourishment and warmth.

This vent is connected to a series of tunnels leading to a Haden coal fired furnace that would have been in the basement.

This could send warm air around the building and heat it to a heady 14 degrees. Not much, but likely more than you would have got at home in the mid 1800s.

59. Window

Light was used cleverly throughout the prison, often to reward good behaviour.

The more you behave yourself, the more light you would get.

60. Disability Lift

The Jail reopened in 2020 after significant investment.

The buildings are now accessible to all.

61. Old Hanging Site

Before the hanging pit was built, several prisoners were executed from a window above this spot.

These would have been private hangings. One of those executed was Selina Wadge, found guilty of child murder in 1878.

62. Photo of Bodmin Jail

This pictures shows Bodmin Jail at the turn of the 1900s before the last prisoners left and before the buildings were sold.

63. Pierrepoint Portrait

Several notable executions came to Bodmin Jail including Calcraft and Marwood.

The legacy of the Pierrepoint hangmen is well documented and the last here in 1909 was performed by Henry and Thomas Pierrepoint.

64. Heritage Hat

This rather splendid hat was first worn on the very first 'Go Darker' tour in 2021.

This tour is now a seasonal Halloween regular and sells out week after week. It's all down to the hat.

65. Chains

Prisoners in the 1700s might well have found themselves bound in iron chains.

These chains, slightly less weighty, have been used around the Jail since the 1990s.

66. Ouija Board

A method of spiritual communication, these boards were popularised in the early Victorian period with the rise of the spiritualist movement.

There are used within the Jail on the paranormal events.

67. The Beast

We can't resist a beast and it turns out neither can the public.

This critter is a best seller in the gift shop

68. Toy Handcuffs

One of our best selling items in the gift shop, brought be children and adults alike.

69. T-Shirt

This t-shirt has been synonymous with Bodmin Jail and sells out as quickly as we can stock it.

70. Bah! Humbugs

Exemplifying all that is wonderful, weird, wrong and wicked about the 1800s.

71. Soap on a Rope

There is a fine line between gallows humour and being offensive.

This soap on a rope exemplifies this.

72. Bodmin Jail Casino

From the 1930s onwards various nightclubs and casinos operated at Bodmin Jail.

There was even Jail currency.

73. Jail Letters

These letters were found in the Turnkey offices during the renovation.

74. Original Death Masks

The death masks pictured here were sold to American collector.

These are the Lightfoot Brothers executed at Bodmin Jail in 1840.

75. Pot of Original Keys

Original jail keys found in the hanging pit when it was excavated in the 1990s.

76. Original Cigarette Packets

These cigarettes date from the 1930s and were found on site.

77. Warder's Uniform

A replica of a warder's uniform from the end of last century.

78. Cornish Litany Postcards

Cornish litancy postwards became popular at the end of the 1800s.

They carried the motto, 'From ghoulies and ghosties and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night, may the good Lord deliver us.'

79. Seance Skull

This deer's skull was used on the séance table in 2022.

This was the first séance to be held at the Jail since the mid 1800s.

80. Newspaper

The Illustrated Police News was a popular penny press publication in the Victorian period.

The Heritage team created their own for the Naughty or Nice Tour.

81. Blackbirds

There are two witches associated with the Jail, Anne Jefferies and Joan Wytte.

One way in which you could identify a witch was by their familiars, this might have been a mouse or a toad or bird.

82. Town Houses

Used on the Naughty or Nice Trail, these town house are reflective of the sort found in New Amsterdam (New York) in the early 1800s.

This was when St Nicholas became popularied and his name would certainly have been known to our inmates.

83. Krampus

The counterpart to St Nicholas, Krampus came to all naughty children and would birch them and leave coal instead of oranges and nuts.

84. Victorian Christmas Card

The Victorians had a peculiar sense of Christmas cheer as this Christmas card represents.

85. Stocks

Method of reform might have included public humiliation such as stocks.

86. Stables

The long drop hanging pit is situated at the back of the stable block, out of the line of sight.

87. Governor's Window

The Governor was the only one with a clear view of the hanging pit.

The roundels in the windows are original and have been used to form the Jail's logo.

88. Governor's Portrait

The last governor of Bodmin Jail, by all account a decent, forward thinking and proactive fella.

89. Original Mannequin

In the 1980s a small museum ran at Bodmin Jail.

This used mannequins throughout the buildings that gradually rotted and fell apart.

Few of them remain and this is one of them.

90. Dress

Paranormal activity is often reported at Bodmin Jail and this dress has many tales associated with it. No spoilers though.

91. Paranormal Equipment

This equipment shows the different techniques used for spiritual communication.

Some of these are used on our Ghost Hunting Nights.

92. Light Heating Vents

The heating system in the Jail was very advanced and extremely expensive.

Here we can see where the warm air would have been pushed around the building from the furnaces in the basement.

93. Scrying Mirror

This mirror has been active at the Jail for many years and is one of the tools used for talking with the dead.

94. Most Haunted Toilet

This room is where the Most Haunted team filmed at the beginning of this century.

When they were here it wasn't a toilet but a ruin, full of bats and birds.

95. Cell Breakthrough

A passway would have run from the hospital wing to the Naval Wing, this tunnel is cleverly designed to seamless blend modern renovation with old build.

96. Last Words

Prisoners would have been allowed to share last words with the crowds come to watch them die.

These are examples of some of these.

97. List of Executions

We know of 55 individuals executed in and around Bodmin.

Many of these were executed in public until such hangings ceased in 1968 and all executions were brought inside the grounds of the prisons away from the public eye.

98. Cheese Cloth

Helen Duncan was convicted of creating fake ectoplasm in the 1940s as part of a séance, she was locked up in Holloway prison for 9 months as a result.

It was due to her case that the Witchcraft Act was amended and the newly named False Medium Act was the act that Derek Acorah was convicted under for falsifying spiritual communication at Bodmin Jail.

99. Bottle of Champagne

We celebrate the Bodmin Jail renovation and know that out history and heritage is preserved.

100. Hotel Keycard

The new style keys might not have the same aesthetic appeal as the old ones, but they open rooms that are far more lovely than the original guests would have had.