Is there such a creature?
The so-called Beast of Bodmin Moor has sparked stories and legends for three decades about a phantom black cat the size of a puma stalking the moors of Cornwall. Since 1978, more than 60 reports have baffled local police about sightings of a large cat-like creature with supposedly sharp, prominent teeth and white-yellow eyes; a cross between a domestic cat and a panther. A string of mutilated livestock has done nothing but fuel the rumours.
Some people have reported being chased by the powerful and scary cat-like creature. Others have spotted it in the distance, not quite believing their eyes. Grainy photographs and video footage exist, but not enough to prove that it is real.
In 1995 the Government ordered an official investigation into the existence of the beast, which concluded that there was no verifiable evidence of a big cat on Bodmin Moor. It is worth noting it was careful to state that there was no evidence against it, either.
Theories abound as to whether the beast is a myth or reality. A small boy found a large cat skull lying on the banks of the River Fowey in the late 1990s. It was thought this was finally evidence that the Beast of Bodmin Moor actually had existed. However, the Natural History Museum confirmed that the skull did, indeed, belong to a leopard, but that the leopard had been imported into Britain as part of a leopard skin rug!
Another long-held hypothesis about the Bodmin Beast centres around the release or escape of big cats from private collections or zoos. It was first claimed that Mary Chipperfield, a 1970s British circus entertainer, released three pumas into the wild following the closure of her Zoo in Plymouth in 1978. Another claim was made in 2016 by Dartmouth Zoo about a pack of pumas released in the 1980s, which would explain the existence of big cats on the moor for the last 30 years. However, scientists have rejected this theory based on the grounds that the numbers needed to sustain a breeding population of big cats would be too large for the food supply.
There is, of course, the possibility that the animal is a species of wild cat thought extinct in Britain many years ago, still surviving on the moors of Cornwall. Others blame the paranormal, believing the beast to be a mythical and ghostly apparition of a creature that roamed Cornwall in the past.
Meanwhile, the Beast of Bodmin sightings continue…
Posted: 5th February 2020 By: Tara Jones
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
Posted: 28th March 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
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
If history is your thing, then Bodmin is absolutely one of the places that should be at the top of your list for a visit. Obviously there is Bodmin Jail – we were hardly going to not mention that, but there is so much more to keep you coming back to Bodmin.
As well as Bodmin Jail which is clearly steeped in history and has so many tales to tell, when you’re in the Bodmin area you really can do a bit of travelling back in time.
There are other locations that can complement your Jail visit, from the local National Trust run Lanhydrock with its beautiful location and house to the Bodmin and Wenford Railway. These places both can make you feel as if you have stepped in to another era, just like you do at the Jail.
There is a free Museum in Bodmin itself, the Bodmin Town Museum and a Regimental Museum if military history is your thing. Obviously Bodmin Jail itself has the naval wing to interest you if so.
Beautiful houses such as Lanhydrock and also Pencarrow House and Gardens – a mostly Georgian mansion still owned and lived in by the same family who settled there in the 1500’s – show a direct contrast to the conditions at Bodmin Jail.
At Lanhydrock, there are beautiful rooms for children including several toys. This works as a striking contrast to Bodmin Jail, where children were sometimes incarcerated for stealing. Stealing food to help to keep themselves and their families alive. When you walk through Lanhydrock, there are huge kitchens with food everywhere.
I can think of no better way to visually show and teach children about class differences, poverty, law and order and possibly even being that little extra bit grateful for their own lifestyle, than to show children both the grandeur of Pencarrow or Lanhydrock, and then show them Bodmin Jail.
Not all of history is happy and positive, and it is important that this is taught as well as the more glamorous and beautiful parts of our history. Every event in history no matter how good or bad, has played a part in the world that we live in today and I really do think it is important that there is a balance in the teaching of history.
The stark reality of Bodmin Jail and the pictures on the walls of some of its youngest criminals, really will help to bring history alive for not only children but adults too. Reading about history and experiencing it are very different things.
Walking around historical sites, where you can touch, smell and just feel the atmosphere of what it must have been like for people in the past is much more effective and likely to stick in the mind. Bodmin has such a historical heart, where so many different eras are covered.
So why not come to Bodmin and do a spot of your own time travelling?
Posted: 23rd May 2016 By: Stevie
Here at the Jail we are constantly maintaining, and striving to improve your experience at this most important set of historic buildings. During the winter months we get to undertake many of our ‘dirty jobs’!
We have unearthed interesting drains, air shafts, and the final room down in the basement level of the main building for you to see. We have also spent a great deal of time improving the exhibits within all areas of the museum.
Looking at the 1881 Governors Report, we have put areas back to the way they were in 1880!
In the coming months we will continue to upgrade the exhibition to give you a real feeling of what it was like to spend time behind bars in Bodmin Jail!
Furthermore, now the basement is totally clear for you to view, we are turning our attention to the 6th floor, and will shortly embark on digging out side rooms that assisted with the massive heating and ventilation system. No one has been able to gain full access to for over 60 years to this area – we intend to dig out hundreds of tons of earth and rubble to have it open for you to explore!
After that, well, it is on to the deeper levels of the Naval Wing, a back-filled staircase descending to……well, we just don’t know where!
Watch this page for further updates on progress here at Bodmin Jail.
Thank you for your continued support.
Posted: 8th May 2015 By: Jonathan Statham