Bodmin Jail will open on Thursday 1st October. Please check the date on your ticket.

Historical Timeline

Sir John Call

Sir John Call

1777

John Howard publishes 'The State of Prisons' as the start of the Prison Reform.

1778

An Act is granted to build three penal institutions in Bodmin: A County Jail for serious felons; A Debtor’s Prison; and a House of Corrections for minor offenders.

1779

Cornwall County Jail opens, built by Sir John Call and based on the ideals of prison reformer John Howard.

Bodmin Jail 1840

Bodmin Jail 1840

1815

National crime wave due to Napoleonic Wars. The new jail is overcrowded and the buildings are gradually extended to house more prisoners throughout the 1840s.

1850

Bodmin Jail is declared unfit for purpose and a new 220 cell jail is built on the same site; started in 1856 it was completed in 1861.

1859

The new heating and ventilation system is introduced, with Haden hot air stoves in the same year Isambard Kingdom Brunel's 'Royal Albert Bridge' spanned the Tamar River.

Bodmin Jail 1856-1861

Bodmin Jail 1856-1861

1868

Last public execution takes place. After this date, all executions took place within the prison walls and out of the public gaze.

1870s

William Marwood develops the Long Drop method of hanging, where the height, weight and muscular strength of the person is taken into account, causing instant death.

1877

Cornwall County Jail is changed to H.M Prison, Bodmin. Part of the jail is also transferred to HM Royal Navy and the Naval Wing is established as HM Naval Prison Bodmin.

Bodmin Jail 1889

Bodmin Jail 1889

1888

The first Execution Shed is built at Bodmin. This was rediscovered during renovations in 2005 and can still be seen at the jail today.

1909

The last person to be hanged at Bodmin Jail is William Hampton, aged 24. He is also the last to be hanged in Cornwall, as subsequent hangings takes place in Exeter.

Bodmin Jail 1900

Bodmin Jail 1900

1911

The female wing of the jail is closed.

1915

The male civil prison is closed as prisoners and staff go to fight in World War One.

1918 - 1919

Storage of the Doomsday Book, State Papers and Crown Jewels.

A.Lee & Sons of Ipswich

A.Lee & Sons of Ipswich

1922

The Naval Prison ceases.

1927

The jail is formally closed.

1929

The jail is sold at auction to the demolition men.

Bodmin Jail 1960's

Bodmin Jail 1960's

1960’s

The jail is used as a cabaret venue and a nightclub.

1990’s

The jail is open as a run-down attraction and pub.

2008

The jail is open as an informative exhibition and a restaurant.

2016

The redevelopment plan starts.

With thanks to The Frank Stone Collection, Bodmin Town Museum, Dudley Prout Collection and The Johnson Collection.