MEET THE GM – MARTIN LYALL
Those of you who have visited Bodmin recently will have noticed the tall, yellow crane and scaffolding surrounding the town’s most historic and iconic building. Cornwall’s former county Gaol which originally opened in 1779, is currently in the middle of the largest private leisure development in the South West since the Eden Project; a £40 million investment that will result in a world class visitor attraction and 70-bedroom boutique hotel, both scheduled to open in 2020.
Behind the scaffolding, the Bodmin Jail team is busy getting the new attraction ready for the opening launch, led by general manager, Martin Lyall. Martin was appointed in December 2016 to help steer the business through the development, and he’s really had his hands full!
Martin Lyall – pictured on the right – presenting Cornwall Hospice Care with a fundraising auction cheque from Bodmin Jail
‘What I like most is being instrumental in managing the transformation of such an iconic building from start to finish,” Martin says when asked about what he loves about his job. “I work with an amazing group of people who are truly passionate about what they do, and this dedication is going to be very obvious once we open the new attraction.’
Bodmin Jail is steeped in history and heritage, with a whole host of stories, legends and paranormal activities to keep visitors entertained. ‘Let’s just say there is definitely an atmosphere and a presence,’ Martin says about the haunted reputation of the Jail. Any favourite prisoner stories? ‘I love the chap who kept committing a petty crime each year, just before Christmas, so he could get a half decent meal and a warm bed for Christmas,’ he laughs.
The building works have not been without challenges, and Martin and the team have had to steer through some interesting situations over the last few years. ‘The biggest challenge we faced was probably the bats,’ Martin states. ‘Bodmin Jail is home to over seven species of bats, including two species of the very rare Horseshoe Bat. As part of the development we have worked very closely with ecologists to ensure we protect the bats and their habitat – we even built a bat bungalow to ensure they have somewhere to roost!’
Martin, who grew up with a father in the RAF, moved to Cornwall in 2016 with his wife, who’s from the South West. ‘I love the beaches, the walks and the culture of Cornwall,’ he says. ‘The heritage and the history are what attracted me to Bodmin Jail in the first place – the chance to deliver an experience like no other by restoring the ruins of this captivating monument so that new generations can experience and understand its importance. We want to give people the opportunity to really feel, hear and taste what it was like to be a prisoner in 18th century Cornwall!’
‘The new year has seen some real developments in the building project,’ he continues. ‘We have finally got a roof on the Jail for the first time in a century! What a milestone.’
Posted: 5th February 2020 By: Tara Jones
£1900 raised for Cornwall Hospice Care in memorabilia auction
It was a full house on Sunday 3rd November as Bodmin Jail hosted one last event before closing its doors for six months to allow construction to finish on its on-going £40million re-development project. An online memorabilia auction gave jail enthusiasts the chance to bid on 32 items from the original attraction, all to raise money for Cornwall Hospice Care.
The auction, which included a number of signs, posters and props taken from the original exhibits, also offered bidders a chance to own full-sized mannequins of the infamous Lightfoot Brothers complete with nooses and Chief Warden Doidge in full uniform. After weeks of bidding, all the items were sold, raising £1900 for the charity.
Cornwall Hospice Care, which celebrates their 40th anniversary next year, are proud to deliver high quality care for all people living with terminal illness in Cornwall and have been the nominated charity for Bodmin Jail in 2019. The funds raised by the jail will go towards the £5.3million it costs to provide the specialist care offered to patients every year.
Martin Lyall, General Manager of Bodmin Jail, said:
“This was a great way to not only give our visitors a chance to own a piece of the original Bodmin Jail attraction, but also a way to raise much needed funds for Cornwall Hospice Care, a charity we are proud to be supporting. We are now very much looking forward the future of Bodmin Jail, re-opening as a brand new attraction in May 2020!”
Melanie Evans from Cornwall Hospice Care, added:
“We are absolutely delighted that Bodmin Jail have kindly supported the Hospices. We are the only provider of adult end of life care in the County. Only one fifth of the funds we need is provided by the NHS the rest must be fundraised. Without the support of businesses in the County we would not be able to continue. As it stands there are 3 beds closed in each Hospice through lack of funding. £20 funds an hour of specialist nursing care, so Bodmin Jail will have funded nearly 100 hours of care and moved us a step closer to opening more beds by Christmas.”
Posted: 3rd December 2019 By: Tara Jones
Jail Break for Bodmin!
Bodmin Jail, one of Cornwall’s most loved historical attractions and Cornwall’s former County Gaol, announces today that it will close its doors for a 6-month period from 4th November 2019 to allow for construction to finish on the on-going £40million re-development and preservation project that is set to restore this important heritage asset to its former glory.
The current visitor attraction will close its doors from Monday 4th November, with the restaurant and gift shop remaining open for diners, pre-booked events, and weddings only, until 1st December 2019. During the closure, all special events, including After Dark Paranormal Events, will be suspended, returning with a new lease of life in May 2020.
On Sunday 3rd November the Jail invites locals and enthusiasts to join them for a Charity Open Day with FREE entry for all to raise funds for the Jail’s chosen charity, Cornwall Hospice Care. Visitors will get a chance to say goodbye to the current attraction, as well as the opportunity to own a piece of Bodmin Jail by bidding on selected memorabilia picked from the original jail and attraction in a silent auction, with all money raised going to the charity that runs two adult hospices in Cornwall. The auction, which opens online on www.jumblebee.co.uk at 9am on Monday 21st October, gives anyone interested in owning a real piece of Bodmin Jail a chance to bid.
The brand new £8.5million immersive visitor experience, which is due to re-open on the 1st May 2020, has been developed by international visitor attraction experts Sarner and sees the introduction of the new ‘Dark Walk’ experience and a complete re-design of the existing attraction spaces. Four linked experiences will take guests on a journey through an interactive, educational, fun and punishing depiction of life in the 18th and 19th century and provide them with entertaining and informative history of the region, the jail and its former inmates. Ghostly voices from Cornwall’s murky past will appear alongside highway robbers, smugglers, miners and tales of the Bodmin Beast, using the latest technology and theatrical effects to allow visitors to experience the life and death within the prison walls and Cornwall as a whole.
The 4-star boutique hotel, which is due to open in late 2020, is being built within the walls of the Grade II listed building, retaining original features including bars on the windows, original brickwork and the original guard tower. It has been designed with a view to retain and enhance the unique atmosphere and sense of history that exists in the ruins of the jail. The old cells are being used to create 70 spacious bedrooms with three cells to a room in the original civil, naval and women’s wings, alongside an exciting new restaurant concept.
Martin Lyall, General Manager at Bodmin Jail, says:
‘This is an incredibly exciting time for Bodmin Jail and Cornwall as a whole, with this being the biggest current private investment South of Bristol. Closing the attraction is an operational necessity at this point, in order to complete the construction work for our brand new, visitor attraction and historic hotel. We look forward to opening our doors in May next year as one of the top attractions in the region.’
The senior team at Bodmin Jail will all remain on site during the construction period, developing exciting and new experiences for visitors next year. It is estimated that the new visitor attraction and hotel will generate around 50 new jobs in the local area once it opens fully.
All images copyright ©Twelve Architects – 2019
Posted: 8th October 2019 By: Tara Jones
Bodmin Jail have been shortlisted!
Bodmin Jail have been shortlisted in the final three of the Small Attraction of the Year category, for the Cornwall Tourism Awards 2018/19.
We are absolutely delighted that are our hardworking Jail Team have pulled together to provide top-notch customer service and such great all-round experience for our visitors.
The Finalists be presented with their Gold, Silver, or Bronze Award, at the black-tie Cornwall Tourism Awards Ceremony in Truro Cathedral, on 1st November 2018.
We wish all the other finalists in their categories the best of luck on the night!
Posted: 3rd October 2018 By: Tara Jones
Bodmin Jail – Built in 1779, Rebuilt in 2018
With the unusually high levels of rain and snow we have been experiencing this winter, water is cascading through nearly 5 storeys of this grand old building, and parts of its’ structure are deteriorating rapidly.
The new building works and renovations will stop all this erosion and preserve the structure long past our own lifetimes.
Posted: 27th March 2018 By: Tara Jones
It’s amazing to think that in the space of a month or two we have gone from a sleeping giant to a hive on activity across the Bodmin Jail site.
Watch out for more updates as the snow melts and temperatures rise!
Posted: 20th 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
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
Before any of the long-awaited development and restoration of Bodmin Jail can begin, we need to ensure the safe relocation of our resident bat population.
The Jail has been home to 9 species of bats for many years, including the Greater, and Lesser Horseshoe, and the tiny Pipistrelle; we have a duty of care both legally, and morally, to ensure this population continues to thrive under our care and monitoring.
Working alongside bat experts Bodmin Jail have provided a swanky new abode specifically designed and constructed to be the most attractive, comfortable and safe environment which will enable these fascinating little creatures to thrive.
We’ve even incorporated CCTV cameras that will enable the ‘Bat Team’ to monitor the comings and goings of this winged community day to day. Film footage will at some point in the future be live streamed via our website so you can watch them for yourselves.
The completion of this luxury Bat House 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: 23rd October 2017 By: Tara Jones