Bodmin Jail (alternatively Bodmin Gaol) is an historic former prison situated in Bodmin, on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. Built in 1779 and closed in 1927, the large range of buildings is now largely in ruins, although parts of the prison have been turned into a tourist attraction.
Bodmin Gaol was designed by Sir John Call and built in 1779 by prisoners of war, and was operational for 150 years, in which it saw over 50 public hangings. It was the first British prison to hold prisoners in individual cells.
The Debtors Act of 1869 abolished imprisonment for debt so the prison had spare space that was taken over by the Admiralty for naval prisoners. Eventually, the naval prison occupied an entire wing of the building, before it was closed in 1922.
The first hanging was apparently in 1785, but the finishing date of the jail was in 1788. Executioners were paid about £10 a hanging. The last person to be hanged was in 1909, subsequent executions took place in Exeter Prison.
The jail closed in 1927. Since that date, there has been no prison within the county of Cornwall. During World War I the prison was used for holding some of Britain’s national treasures including the Doomsday Book and the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.
Much of the jail remains in ruins. Some parts have been refurbished and these now form a tourist attraction with exhibitions telling of the history of the jail and of offenders imprisoned there.
The exhibits showcase gory mannequins accompanied with plaques, describing the offence committed by particular persons and their sentence, in their respective cells. Because of the style of exhibit, it has been likened to such attractions as The London Dungeon.
Visiting the jail
We are open 364 days a year for Jail Visits between 9:30am until 8pm for the exhibition. Our fully licensed Bar is open from 09:30, and the restaurant serves food from 10:30 am until 9pm.
Regrettably, due to the constraints of the building, we are not a wheelchair-friendly venue, and those with impaired mobility may also find access to some areas difficult. We would recommend calling us in advance to discuss your requirements.
Enjoy a walk round the outside of the Jail, see the only working execution pit in the UK, and our stables gift shop without charge. For a more in depth look, and to experience our visitor attraction, please see the prices below. All funds generated at the Jail go to the renovation of this important historic building.
Adult (16+) £10.00 | Children 5-15 £7.50 | Children under 5 FREE | Concessions (65 and over) £8.50 | Family Ticket – (2 Adults, 2 Children) £32.00
Tel: +44 (0)1208 76292