British executions and public executions in Cornwall. BODMIN'S Executions, Hangings List - BODMIN JAIL – Bodmin GAOL & Public Executions in cornwall - Hangings at Bodmin Prison, ( Death penalty at HM Prison Bodmin, Cornwall ) Bodmin Jail Condemned Prisoners List Convicts sentences Prisoners Reprieved or Transported to Australia by Transportation. The graves of the dead convicts and their burials, the scaffold, English executioners, hangman gibbet & crimes. Secret Britain – Written by David Freeman

Bodmin Public executions




Executions in Cornwall.

Bodmin the Jail and its Public Executions





Capital Punishment - Death by Hanging at Bodmin










Written & adapted for television by David Freeman for SECRET BRITAIN

An interesting historical over view of the unique history of Bodmin Jail.

British executions, Cornish executions and executions in Cornwall adapted

from his TV series with photographs by celebrated Cornwall

Photographer Jackie Freeman

  Bodmin's Executions

  The Story of Hanging at BODMIN GAOL (HM Prison Bodmin Jail)


  Men, women and children were caged here cell by cell in Bodmin Gaol in desperately harsh and grim conditions, often their minimal crimes being met with the cruel, revengeful and unforgiving sentences demanded by the local Cornish magistrates taking care of their aristocratic own.

Bodmin jail excution shed



 So what exactly did penal servitude in Bodmin's jail mean for its early convicts?


 Total isolation, ruthless enforcement of absolute silence, the terrible discomfort of a solid plank bed, a demeaning and meagre diet of bread and gruel and perhaps the occasional onion and the deprivation of all previously known human privileges to start!


 Here in Bodmin's sinister jail built in George II's reign, many a prison inmate would see out their days broken and dispirited. But for some of Bodmin's Cornish prisoners, young and old alike, their desperate days were rapidly ticking away.


 Public executions by hanging were taking place in the forboding Bodmin prison and had been for years. The surrounds at Bodmin were not an uncommon place for the erection of the scaffold and morbidity in Bodmin town bred a strange follower in those times.

The tens of thousands of Cornishmen and huge numbers of women, all avid supporters at Bodmin of Englands executioners and the Cornish hangmen were no exception to the rule.


 Train loads of people flocked from far and wide across the whole of the west country to witness and mock the terrible ordeal of the condemned prisoners dragged out to be hanged at Bodmin Jail. To ogle and cheer at the crack of the trap. And here at Bodmin, the hangman's gallows would be erected as it always was, in full view of the jeering Cornish public for years to come.


 Steal a sheep, an apple or some grain in Cornwall and be sure, the hangman's noose could indeed seal your fate. And for two such straying waifs here in Bodmin, it was.


 It was in Bodmin up on the moor overlooking the great gaol then on 11th August in 1796 that John Hoskin, aged 55 was publicly hanged for stealing a sack of wheat at Redruth.


And on the 5th September only back a blink in time in 1820, Michael Stephens aged just 27, was also put to death on the Bodmin gallows for "killing a ram & stealing it."


Heavy penalties were the norm in Cornwall back then. Public execution a grim spectacle not to be missed.






Executions List Bodmin













Left : Graphic of English Public Executions at Bodmin Gaol

John Harris for Horse theft. Death by Hanging

William Francis for sheep stealing. Hanged by the neck.

William Pearse  Stole from a wreck. Hanged at Bodmin Jail.

Thomas Roberts and Francis Coath.

were hanged for sheep stealing ay Bodmin Jail.

John Hoskin, hanged at Bodmin for stealing sheep in Redruth.


Bodmin and executions building

The Hanging of Selina Wadge in Bodmin Cornwall






 Female public executions and hangings were at best distasteful in the eyes of some of the prison's authorities and it soon became obvious to observers that an event such as a public hanging would always be eagerly awaited by an ever growing crowd of onlookers outside Bodmin jail's prison walls whenever a hanging was posted. Public hangings and executions were particularly enjoyed by Bodmin's womenfolk who would have been gathering on the fields and banks and outside Bodmin jail's entrance and up on Asylum Hill since before dawn to get the best view.

 Although now covered by a wooden sign, back in 1878, anyone peering through the locked Bodmin prison gates on through the arch from the old metal gates beyond would also have clear sight of the hanging and drop zone. So the hanging of Selina Wadge would be visible, or at least its result would to all!

It was an easy matter therefore for a canvas screen to be ordered up by the Governor Hugh Colvill and erected between the prison buildings to shield the grisly affair from the watchful eyes of the public.

Execution yard Bodmin Jail

 We are told that a solemn but utterly repentant Selena Wadge climbed the gallows stairs to her execution and entered the scaffold from the doorway with a "tolerably firm step" and great dignity, gently sobbing and asking for divine forgiveness, grasping her handkerchief tightly in her hand.

 At the exact stoke of eight in the morning, Selina Wadge was clearly heard to say, "God deliver me from this miserable world." And William Marwood, her British executioner, mercifully released the bolt which plunged Selena Wadge eight feet into her eternity.



 English hangman William Marwood, is commended in British history for his invention of the humane "long drop" method of hanging. This was a form of execution which ensured that the prisoner's neck would be instantly broken as the rope snapped tight, rather than allowing the poor soul's departure by suffocation, (as had so often previously been the case when used on the Gibbet in Bodmin.)

And Marwood was to be commended again.


 It is widely reported in the press of the time who interviewed the witnesses to Selina Wadge's death, that not a sound was to be heard as Selina Wadge plummeted through the hangman's trap on the scaffold, hanged with such rapidity that she did not even drop her handkerchief.









 Dr Samuel Johnson (arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history) then aged a noble 74, in writing a letter to

Sir William Scott  who was distinguished Judge in the High Court of Admiralty, complained bitterly about the possibility of public executions being abolished.

He was old school and liked the idea of its harshness and the lesson it could teach society.


Dr. Johnson said:


 “Sir, Executions are intended to draw spectators;

If they do not draw spectators, they don’t answer their purpose.

The old method was most satisfactory to all parties; the public were gratified by a procession and the criminal was supported by it.

Why is this to be swept away?”







Bodmin gallows
The Gallows at Bodmin - the  Bodmin  Gibbet.

Bodmin's three legged mare.


Bodmin Gallows


 At a place called Five Lanes which some call Five Ways in Bodmin, on a high hill overlooking the Bodmin prison where the main turnpike's to Truro, Liskeard and Wadebridge converged on the town, was the site of the original Bodmin Gibbet. Affectionately known locally as the three legged mare because of its triangular method of construction on which you could string up eight a side!.

 Those of you who know Cornwall and Bodmin in particular will remember that this is the area around St. Lawrence's Church and the old site of St. Lawrence's Hospital, once the Bodmin Workhouse, which was extended in the early 1800's to become the huge insane asylum serving the whole county of Cornwall.


 To site the executioners gallows permanently here, right beside the principal roads into and out of Bodmin was rather clever of Bodmin's town elders as it would have certainly served as a serious warning to would be wrong doers and vagabonds entering Bodmin town. A very clear warning indeed that that Bodmin Magistrates would certainly have no truck or tolerate lawbreakers or criminals here.


 By now, British society had urged change to the original function of the hangman's gibbet, which left the poor convict in a metal cage strung up to be starved or pecked to death by the crows, to a more humane way of execution, one by hanging... but the name 'gibbet' still stuck.

Gibbet, gallows or scaffold, it hardly mattered...the end result was the same. Death by hanging.


 There is naturally some conjecture and argument locally as to exactly where the Bodmin Gibbet or gallows was sited at Bodmin Five ways, but indications from reports of the time make it clear that the gallows was clearly visible from the prison itself and that the prison cart carrying the unfortunate condemned inmate to his very public execution was pulled up 'next the crossroads.'







 Ironically, at this main convergence of roads at Five Lanes Bodmin today is a funeral home!

Hanging Bodmin











Bloody Code

The   Bloody   Code:

       Capital Punishment - the bloody code and death by hanging at Bodmin.




 Here in England way back in 1820, there were no  less than 220 crimes for which an Englishman could be hanged by the neck until he was dead.

Today there are none.


 The most obvious crime befitting the punishment was for willful murder, the others; high treason, piracy, dereliction of duty if you were serving in the army or navy and crimes against the person such as rape.

However, other pitiful crimes against British society which were considered worthy of the ultimate preferred penalty, death by hanging, is a frightening indication of how the rich demanded and received protection of their property from the common felon.



 Any theft therefore or attempt at theft of property exceeding five shillings automatically carried the death penalty.


 Known as the bloody code; Highway robbery, wilful arson, poaching and stealing from a rabbit warren, horse theft, taking a sheep which didn't belong to you and cattle rustling, were all crimes that the convicted felon could hang for.

Forgery and Pick pocketing too and even children were not exempt from the worst sentence in the land back then. This common crime also carried with it a possible trip to the gallows and execution for many a youngster met his maker at a very early age, trying to pick a pocket or two!.


 Writing a threatening letter may seem today a feeble enough crime, but back then, society stridently upheld its protective shield and it too was punishable by death, as was being in the company of gypsies for a month or even cutting down young trees.

Commit any of these heinous crimes listed on the statute books and you may end up wishing you hadn't.




 To make absolutely certain that the Cornish population knew full well that they should keep the peace and not consider even thinking about going beyond the bounds of the law, executions were made 'very' public and the community were actively encouraged to attend, as Dr. Johnson so eminently pointed out.

And just to make doubly clear that the lesson was learned by all who attended the dreadful demise of the accused, a pretty horrible end was devised for the gallery of spectators to witness.





 The earliest recorded and probably known execution in Bodmin is that of Nicholas Boyer the Mayor of Bodmin, hanged on a gallows at Mount Folly, near where the Turret Clock is today for his part in the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549.




 Now being executed, strung up on the gibbet or gallows for your crime against England and humanity was a particularly horrible way to go, though it's not as if you would have had any choice in the matter. One thing's for certain though, a public execution on the gallows in Bodmin, Cornwall back then was certainly a crowdpleaser and a well attended event it was, one that was exceptionally good for the commercial traders and hawkers of Bodmin.


 Bodmin's Pubs, Inns and lodging houses burst at the seems the night before a public hanging and even travelling fairs were set up to further entertain the throngs who gathered in Bodmin to watch the spectacle. So the toll gates & Cornwall's refreshment traders who set up on the day and of course, the local pick pockets, did a resounding trade.

 At the appointed time, usually around noon to allow for those getting to Bodmin by foot or cart to arrive in time, the wretched and utterly terrified condemned prisoner, shackled and bound with hands tied behind him, would be unceremoniously hauled by horse and cart from the jail at Bodmin through the streets of the town and onward to the gallows. Suffering the dreadful obscenities and jeers of the crowd on his fearful last journey to the top of the hill.


 The prison driver has now pulled up beneath the gibbets shadowy framework, a noose is slung over the condemned prisoner's head the rope fastened off to the top of the gibbets frame. This would be quite sufficient for the job.

With a roar from the crowd as the horse was whipped across its backside, the cart jerked away from beneath the desperate man, sending him tumbling into oblivion, the execution completed.

 If a cart wasn't available, a condemned prisoner in Bodmin was forced to climb a ladder with his hands tied behind his back whereupon the ladder was kicked, twisted or jerked away from under him leaving him dangling and gasping for air till he choked to death..





 Now some experts argue that this form of execution was not as cruel as it first seems, suggesting that with the rapid tightening of the noose around the convicts neck, the flow of blood to the brain through the main artery in the neck is near immediately halted, bringing with it a merciful and almost instant feint.

Survivors of such incidents, failed suicide victims for instance, as few as there were or indeed are, have commented on this feature and likened it to "a great cloak of grey sea fog which surrounds you before you can even take a gasp." Other eye witnesses to such public executions report that the poor soul is left to asphyxiate and is strangled to death, dangling and kicking for several minutes in front of the appreciative crowd before he or she met their maker.

 Then along came the ingenious LONG DROP method of hanging, invented it's believed by the Irish but perfected by William Marwood who conducted some of the executions at Bodmin. It was primarily developed to lessen the anguish of those witnesses who by law had to attend an execution. The Bodmin prison Governor and the Chaplain, rather than for the quick dispatch of the prisoner at his execution.

 Executioner Marwood's long drop method correctly positioned the knot of the noose under the left ear and stopped it from twisting and the  hangman's rope, adjusted to a restricted length calculated by the weight and height of the prisoner, 7, foot, 8 foot and so on, ensured the condemned convict's neck was broken cleanly as the prisoner fell through the trap and his weight and momentum did the rest.

 Actually, the medical profession seem to disagree and tell us that this form of hanging leads to comatose asphyxia i.e. the condemned prisoner still dies by asphyxiation and is strangled to death but is by now unconscious as it happens.

When effected properly there is no visible movement of the condemned after the drop.




 Whilst executions took place at Bodmin throughout the 19th and early 20th century, more criminals condemned to death were 'Transported' to the Colonies as an alternate punishment than actually the number that met a fateful end, thus ridding English society of the threat they had become, by passing the buck and putting the problem on to someone else's back. As far as the Magistrates were concerned, if the dreadful voyage by sailing ship didn't kill you then the heathens and diseases in the New World certainly would. So transportation was seen to be as good as the death penalty. A nice invisible execution miles from home.


Interestingly one famous son of Bodmin, Sir John Molesworth was a famous prison reformer and primarily responsible for halting Transportation to the colonies.

New South Wales in Australia was a firm favourite and a pretty fair option to the gallows it must have been for the convicts previously sentenced to death.


The rest is history.



Bodmin jail with the old Bodmin Lunatic Asylum far left. To its left, the site of the Bodmin Gibbet at Five ways


Old Bodmin Jail antique photo






Executions in Cornwall: The Rope men's Plunder:



 High on the list of the Bodmin Executioner in his duty was a duty to himself and a hanging was a good financial opportunity.

An execution by hanging back then paid well in anybody's mind with sheriff's accounts of William Axford's hanging on April 7th 1825 showing:


£1 15 shillings - Paid for the Coffin of William Axford for the execution

12 Shillings for Six Bearers from the scaffold to his grave

£1 and 5 shillings for Fixing the hangman's Drop

The Hangman's fee is not shown. But other records show as much as seven pounds a hanging or ‘drop’ being the fee paid to the executioner.

That’s an enormous amount of money by today’s standards.


 So the overseer, the executioner or hangman of the time, whatever you want to call him, in arranging all and managing all and sundry for the gory day, would make a tidy commission and sometimes even delegate the execution itself to his henchmen if he didn't want to sully his reputation, dirty his hands or remain completely anonymous.


 Execution onlookers in the Bodmin of old  lived in a time of strange beliefs and in fantastic healing powers brought about by superstition and folk law.

So take advantage of the day and the opportunity the executioners certainly did.


 It was a widely held belief in Cornwall until relatively recent times, that the hangman's rope held enormous powers of healing and good fortune for anyone keeping a piece in their possession as a souvenir of the day. So it was as commonplace, as it was expected,  for the executioner, having cut down the poor deceased individual from the scaffold, to divide the rope that hanged him, up into neat, short lengths and sell them for a shilling a pop to the all too eager crowd. For a little more over the odds, people could also reserve a piece of the hang mans rope before the event took place. The order book was always full!

Business being business, the advertising was subtle and worked...the closer to the noose your bit of rope came from, the stronger the power was. This became the general idea, but no, not the noose itself which was buried with the corpse of the prisoner. That was bad luck.

The cure all was a sure fire winner to rid the new owner of the rope shard of rheumatism and arthritis, fits and distemper and keep him safe from harm in the years to come.


 So definitely not the noose then, but the other eight feet of rope was big business fro the hangman It wasn't uncommon for the executioner to have a goodly supply of 'additional' bits of rope, already neatly cut up and stored in a basket under the scaffold. Supply equals demand.

The’d come in handy in a big rush to buy the hanging rope and the public would never know the difference if just a few extra bits and pieces went on the market.

 There was also a very good business in executed bodies too, with local doctors paying a handsome reward for any corpse that came their way for dissection. Frankly it was the only way a doctor could learn his skills as a medical man back then. Studying his science and anatomy by direct comparison. And it was unusual to have a perfectly healthy and fresh specimen to play with.

It was often the case then, that executed bodies would end up on the dissection slab in the doctors surgery rather than in the coffin which would be buried empty or full of stones.

 Magistrates too, meeting out the infinite penalty of death by hanging to a prisoner for his crime against society, could actually order in his sentence that the prisoners lifeless body be taken for the good of medical science. Thus inflicting insult upon injury. An even worse finality for the poor prisoner who knew his eternity would be spent in bits in bottles of formaldehyde and not with his God!


 Other even weirder superstitions which would meet with incredulity by today's community are well described in history and came about as a twist on the notion that if you were ill and suffered from a disease called the King's Evil (Stofula or struma, a tuberculous type swelling of the lymph glands, once popularly supposed to be curable by the touch of royalty) then exactly the same 'hands on' healing could be brought about by one who is imminently about to meet his maker, or one so pure, who's already there having been forgiven by his God for his sins.

Two such incidents are recorded at Bodmin jail. The first in Bodmin of 1786 where Thomas Roberts, repentant to the last for stealing a sheep, faced the Bodmin gallows.


  We are told that a woman approached the prison Governor asking to see the condemned man before he went to the gallows. The Governor complied with the request because she suffered from a similar Tuberculosis to that we called the Kings Evil and in his condemned cell she asked Roberts to touch the infected parts of her body which he gladly consented to do. Probably as a last gesture of repentance.

 To make doubly sure that the cure would work, she was allowed to take Robert's hand after his death and lay it upon herself a second time.

We don't know if she actually got better but this superstition was to last a long, long time.

 A second similarly weird event, on the morning of John Doige's execution outside Bodmin Jail in 1862, two women asked to touch the hand of the dead convict in order to cure their sore necks! A request that was granted!

Other stories abound, touching the dead mans eyes fixed headaches, cataracts and glaucoma and clipping a piece of cloth from his shirt was a good cure for everything Bodmin!

Hanging pit Bodmin jail


Execution Shed Bodmin Jail Cornwall







Where did Bodmin bury her dead after a public execution?



 I am often asked: After an execution at Bodmin, what happened to the bodies and where exactly did they bury the dead prisoners?


 There are several answers to this rather morbid but none the less interesting question.

 Those condemned and hanged on the public gallows at Five ways on the Moor at Bodmin for instance, ended being dealt with is a variety of ways.



 Often the bodies of hanged prisoners were released back into the hands of the family for disposal and burial at a place of their choice as would be fair , right and reasonable. Some cadavers, in a gruesome and extreme show of callousness on behalf of the magistrates were instructed to be hung high in a traditional Gibbet, a metal frame, which exposed the body of the executed prisoner to the elements and of course, birds.

This, along with the ravages of the sun, wind and rain, soon left the corpse devoid of any human recognition.

Obviously the thought was, a semi dressed skeleton was a sure fire way to scare the daylights out of would be criminals!

Other executed bodies were destined for the dissection tables of local doctors as we have already heard. And some of the dead were buried close by to the spot where they were hanged, leaving a gory graveyard of deceased inmates as a similar reminder to passers by!


 The bodies of the dead after execution at the Bodmin jail itself ended up in a variety of places too. A few being released to relatives in a show of respect. Others likewise ended up on the dissection table, but most were buried at Bodmin prison within its walls.

 When executions on the gallows below the south wall of Bodmin Jail took place, graves were dug behind the coal storage shed in a place now situated behind the Navy Officers quarters. Matthew Weekes was buried here and we are told that his grave had over a foot of water in the bottom of it so it wasn't an ideal spot. Record also has it that some of the executed dead ended up on the western side of Bodmin Jails site adjacent to the prison wall in what was the old exercise yard and now a builders yard.


 When the jail site was developed in the later 1800's and the old entrance to Bodmin  jail on the south side closed off, a number of exhumations took place of many of the hanged prisoners and their bodies were transferred to the top of the hill behind the jail. This area contained the jail's vegetable plots and is now the site of a housing estate off Arm Chair Corner. The Bodmin jail graveyard just seems to have vanished and is now lost!

 It is surprising that no human remains were found here by the builders of the estate nor application made for exhumation from the site at the time.

I wonder if they can add to the story?



Jackie Freeman
















Records between 1549 and 1735 are all but non existent.

One can safely assume that there were many, many more executions in Bodmin during this 200 year period and beyond. It is impossible to conceive otherwise!










1576 or 1577  


* Abbott






    Julian Gliddon     "
    William Kylter     "
    William Pearce     "
    Hugh Wooger     "
1577 November 29th 1577 Cuthbert Maine   Charged with preferring the Catholic Faith Hung, drawn and quartered in Launceston Market Place. His head being set up on the Castle of Launceston, and his quarters distributed between Bodmin, Barnstaple, Tregonyas and Wadebridge as an example! 
1549 Exact date Unknown Nicholas Bowyer Mayor   His part in the Rebellion PUBLICLY HANGED AT Bodmin Mount Folly
1674 Circa   Male   Theft

The earliest record of a hanging at Blisland near Bodmin.

In 1294 Blisland was: Invested in its own precincts the jurisdiction of life and limb. According to tradition a man was executed here on the gallows at Gallows Field ( still called) for stealing silver items from the Blisland church

1720 circa    Male * ROSEVEAR.   Riot and theft at Parr

Hanged at Launceston. The History of Cornwall Hitchins and Drew. 1824 p72. We are told that he was hanged at Launceston for his part in a Tinners Riot at Par demanding grain from a store house waiting to be shipped. At the time he was a constable. He was publicly hanged and his body taken to St Austell Downs where he was suspended on the Gibbet to “blacken in the sun and furnish meat for birds of prey.”   

1735 Weds.6th August 1735 Henry Rogers     Murder of William Carpenter PUBLICLY HANGED AT LAUNCESTON
John Sheel     Murder of William Carpenter PUBLICLY HANGED AT LAUNCESTON
  Monday 11th August 1735 Henry Fellows    Housebreaking    PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN 5 Ways
1736 On or about 12th May 1736 John Notting   Murder William Lowe PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN 5 Ways
During August 1736
John Morris     Murder of Margery Plyn PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN 5 Ways
1739 During late July 1739 Richard Cairn    Murder of William Cressell PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN 5 Ways
1741 On or about March 20 1741 Richard Barns   Highway Robbery Believed PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  On or about 30 July 1741 Abraham Mead   Murder of  Abraham Popjay Believed PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  On of about 30 July 1741 John Harris   Horse Theft Believed PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1742 On or about 20 August 1742 Alice Warne   Murder of her illegitimate child Believed PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  On or about 20 August 1742 William Francis   Theft of a sheep Believed PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1743 On or about 25 March 1743 John Pegrose   Theft of a horse Believed PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1745 On or about 28 March  1745 Gabriel Mitchell    Murder of Daniel Oneal  PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1746 On or about 27 March 1746 Margaret Lukey    Murder of Alexander Mellows PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1748 On or about 16 March 1748 John Boyens   Murder PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1755 Monday 11th August 1755 Grace Smith    Murder of female infant   Believed PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1760 Monday 19th May 1760 Francis Lafond    Highway Robbery PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN  5 Ways
  Tuesday 20th May 1760 Francis Harris   Highway Robbery PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN  5 Ways
1767 Monday 5th October 1767 William Pearse   Stole from a wreck. PUBLICLY HANGED AT LAUNCESTON
1771 Monday 1st April 1771 Catherine Burgess    Murder of her female illegitimate child


  Friday 9th August 1771 Ann Chapman    Murder of her female illegitimate child


1773 Thursday 15th April 1773 Richard Simons     Highway Robbery PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN  5 Ways
1776 Friday 29th March 1776 Mary Penylegon     Murder of a male illegitimate child PUBLICLY HANGED AT LAUNCESTON
1777 Monday 14th April 1777 Stephen Harris   22 Burglary PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN  5 Ways
1785 Wednesday 2nd March 1785 Philip Randall  27 Burglary in Truro PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN  5 Ways
  Wednesday 23rd March 1785 Robert Brown   33 Murder of John Newton a boy. PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN  5 Ways
  Friday 23rd July 1785 William Hill 33 Murder of John Pascoe  PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN  5 Ways
  On or about 1st August 1785 John Richards  25

Highway Robbery with violence from

Peter Jane

1786 Thursday 6th April Thomas Roberts  34

Stealing a ewe sheep the property of

Stephen Polkinghorne

  On or about 20th April 1786 Francis Coath 45 Convicted of the same crime PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1787 Tuesday 10th April 1787 John Gould   23 Burglary at Budock, Cornwall. PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Tuesday 10th April 1787 James Elliot 35 Robbing the Royal Mail on the Highway PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Monday 20th August 1787 William Congdon 23 Burglary at Rame Cornwall PUBLICLYHANGED AT BODMIN
1788 On or about September 14th following 2 appeals and stays of execution. James Kitto   a carpenter. 32 Burglary at Breage Cornwall. Convicted at Bodmin of stealing 8 guineas and 5/-, the property of Bennett Treleva.

NOTE: A petition was raised supported by Mr. Molesworth citing grounds for clemency on the basis that this was Kitto's only case of housebreaking. It was pleaded that this was a crime where there was no violence against the person and the prisoner had always had a visible and honest mode of subsistence. He had made a full confession of his guilt and has behaved well since sentence was passed. Initial sentence: death, respited for 1 month. The judge left the prisoner for execution because the crime was 'particularly difficult for the poor to guard against,' particular during the summer season. Grounds for clemency: none given

Kitto was given four more weeks after the 2nd appeal to live before being: PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN

1791 Thursday 31st March 1791 Michael J Taylor 22 Stealing a mare. PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Thursday 31st March 1791 John Carne ( John Dash ) 23 Burglary PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Thursday 31st March 1791 James Symons 25 Stealang an ox. PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Friday 2nd September 1791 Benjamin Willoughby 20 Murder of James James innkeeper at Helston by fracturing his skull PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Friday 2nd September 1791 John Taylor 26 Found guilty of the same crime, murder of Jas Jones in Helston PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Thursday 15th September 1791 William Moyle   Feloniously killing a mare. PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1793 UNknown Jan Joice   Burglary at the Launceston Post Office Conflicting reports show he was hanged at Launceston
1793      " John Williams   Burglary at the Launceston Post Office Conflicting reports show he was hanged at Launceston
1793 Thursday March 28th 1793 William Trevarvas (Trewarris) 25 Murder of Martha Blewitt


Conflicting reports show he was hanged at Launceston

1795 Wednesday 9th April 1795 James Frederick   Highway Robbery of Thomas Leane PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Thursday 27th August 1795 Joseph Williams 28 Sheep Stealing Publicly HANGED AT BODMIN
1796 Saturday 23rd March 1796 G A Selfcombe ( Safehorne) 35 Murder of Peter Jacobus von Poilsma a Dutchman PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Thursday 11th August 1796 John Hoskin   Stealing wheat in Redruth PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1798 Thursday 13th September 1798 William Howarth   Theft of a purse containing 20 guineas PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1801 Monday 13th April 1801 William Roskilly 34 Burglary in Mawgan in Meneage HANGED AT BODMIN
1802 Wednesday 25th August 1802 Richard Andrews   Forgery and Fraud

PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN Henceforth outside the walls of the prison.

Bodmin Southern Jail Gate

  Wednesday 1st September 1802 John Vanstone 37 Burgary  at the house of Walter Oke PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN                 ON the FIRST DROP GALLOWS  
  Wednesday 1st September 1802 William Lee 60 Convicted of the same crime PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1805 Wednesday 17th April 1805 John Williamson 32 Breaking into the shop of Ms Tyeth PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Wednesday 17th April 1805 James Joyce 27 Convicted of the same crime PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1810 Unknown Lawrence Roach   Murder Launceston?
1812 Monday 13th April 1812 Pierre Francois La Roche 24 Forgery of a £2.00 bank note PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1812 Friday 1st May 1812 William Wyatt 40

Murder by drowning of Isaiah Falk Valentine

at Fowey


Wyatts execution was stayed as it originally fell on Good Friday and he could not, by law be legally hanged on that day.

1812 June 1812

Two unidentified women

Mother and Daughter

  Murder of an illegitimate infant at Lower St. Columb Believed to be HANGED AT BODMIN
1813 SUNDAY ! 6th September 1812 Elizabeth Osbourne 20 Setting fire to a corn stack PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1814 Thursday March 1814

William Burns


21 The murder of John Allen of Sennen PUBLICLY HANGED AT LAUNCESTON
1815 Friday 31st March 1815 John Simms   Murder of Joseph Burnett PUBLICLY HANGED AT LAUNCESTON
1818 Thursday 20th August 1818 William Rowe Junior from Stokeclimsland 41 Sheep stealing PUBLICLY HANGED AT LAUNCESTON
1820 Saturday 12th August 1820 Sarah Polgrean 34 Murdering her husband with poison PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Tuesday 5th September 1820 Michael Stephens 27 Theft and the murder of a ram PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1821 Monday 2nd April 1821

John Barnicott


24 Murder of William Hancock at Cury
PUBLICLY HANGED AT Launceston; Thomson and Barnicott were hanged in the Castle Green Launceston for the murder of a farmer near Probus, the scaffold being erected on a slight mound in the centre of the Green, known from this circumstance as Gallows Hill until it was levelled some twenty years since.
  Same day John Thompson 17 Convicted of the same crime PUBLICLY HANGED AT Launceston
  Monday 10th September 1821 Nicholas James Gard 42 Murder of Thomas Hoskin Believed to be PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1825 Thursday 7th April 1825 William A Oxford 21 Arson Setting fire to a corn stack PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1827 Thursday 19th April 1827 James Eddy 29 Robbery with violence - Jane Cock PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1828 Friday 8th August 1828 Elizabeth Cummings 22 Murder of her son, a child. PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Thursday 21st August 1828 Thomas Pring Coombe 21 Convicted on 2 cases of housebreaking PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1834 Thursday August 1834 William Hocking 57 Bestiality PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1835 Monday 30th March 1835 John Henwood 29 Patricide. Murder of his parents PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1840 Monday 13th April 1840 William Lightfoot 35 The murder of Neville Norway PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
  Same day James Lightfoot 24 Convicted of the same crime PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1844 Monday 12th August 1844 Matthew Weekes 23 The murder of Charlotte Dymond near Rough Tor PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1845 Monday 11th August 1845 Benjamin Ellison 61 Murder of Mrs. Elizabeth Ruth Seaman PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1854 Monday 3rd April 1854 James Holman 27 Murder of his wife Phillipa Holman in Crowan PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1856 Monday 11th August 1856 William Nevan 44 Murder of Sgt.Major Robinson PUBLICLY HANGED AT BODMIN
1862 Monday 18th August 1862 John Doidge 28 Murder of John Drew neat Launceston HANGED AT BODMIN
1878 Thursday 15th August 1878 Selina Wadge 28 Murder of her 2 year old son at Altarnun HANGED AT BODMIN Jail within the compound in a degree of privacy
1882 Monday 13th November 1882 William Bartlett 46 Murder of a child at Lanivery HANGED AT BODMIN in private
1901 Tuesday 9th July 1901 Valeri Giovanni 31 Murder on the High Seas HANGED AT BODMIN Jail in private in the execution shed
1910 Tuesday 20th July 1909 William Hampton 24 The Murder of Emily Barnes Trevarthen Tredrea at St Erith THE LAST MAN HANGED AT BODMIN JAIL in private in the execution shed








Other Prisoners of Bodmin Jail that didn't get out alive





Date of Death


Name of Prisoner


1813 Joan Wytte Died in Bodmin Jail
1825 - Monday October 10th James Gordon 55.     Died in Bodmin Jail
1826 - Wednesday October 4th Matthias Andrews 19 Died in Bodmin Jail
1827 - Friday August 3rd John Riches 24 Died in Bodmin Jail
1827 - Saturday May 26th William Nancarrow Died in Bodmin Jail service a six week sentence
1827 - Friday August 24th Jane Corney 67 Died in Bodmin Jail
1827 - Tuesday 18th September Mary Ann Francis 25 Died in Bodmin Jail
1827 - Thursday 4th October Elizabeth Stotton Died in Bodmin Town Gaol whilst serving a 4 month sentence
1827 - Wednesday 5th December Rosina Champion Died in Bodmin Jail whilst serving a six week sentence
1827 - Tuesday 25th December James Brenton 17 Died in Bodmin Jail
1827 - Wednesday 26th December Johnathan Long Died in Bodmin Jail
1829 - Friday 20th February Thomas Lawry Died in Bodmin Jail whilst serving six months
1829 - Thursday December 24th Charlotte Vincent Died in Bodmin Jail
1829 - October Isaac Richards Died in Bodmin Jail
1830 - Wednesday March 10th Charlotte Radby Died in Bodmin Jail serving a one month jail sentence
1830 - October Mark Nicholls Accidentally killed whilst working in the quarry
1830 - October Thomas Hugo, a debtor Died suddenly from rupture of blood-vessel
1830 - October William Walkey Brought to prison at Bodmin in dying state and only lived few days
1831 - Wednesday January 1st Mary Ann Keam Died in Bodmin Jail serving a three month jail sentence
1831 - Saturday February 19th Robert Curnow 38 Died in Bodmin Jail during a flue epidemic
1831 -  * Brown a Vagrant Died in Bodmin Jail
1831 - Wednesday March 9th John Phillips Died in Bodmin Jail serving a seven month jail sentence
1832 - Tuesday March 20th Mary Ann Paul Died in Bodmin Jail serving a two month prison sentence
1832 - Thursday April 5th John Pipey a vagrant Died in Bodmin Jail who was in last stage of typhus fever and died in infirmary a few hours after admission
1833 - Sunday February 10th Henry Behenna aged 3 Died in Bodmin Jail held in jail
1833 - Friday March 22nd James Behenna Died in Bodmin Jail serving a 10 month jail sentence
1834 - Monday September 15th Robert Wills Died in Bodmin Jail








THE LUCKY ONES - Death Penalty Remissions - Stays of Execution & Pardons

Those convicts escaping death in a different way.

By missing their own execution!




 Sentenced to death at Bodmin, Truro or Lostwithiel assizes were many lucky individuals who received late minute remissions or who were granted clemency upon appeal against the death penalty they received for their crimes.

The following are only a handful who escaped execution by having their sentences commuted to a spell on the hulks or penal servitude & transportation to Australia!

This is an ongoing list:



James Ruce alias Ruse

Highway Robbery steal 2 silver watches valued £ 5/10/- Bodmin Assizes

Death penalty commuted to Seven years transportation to Australia on the Scarborough


William Worsdell

Seven years transportation to Australia

1783 John Arscott Seven years transportation to Australia on the Charlotte.
1783 - 18th August John Lawrell Stole a silver tablespoon in Bodmin. Death commuted to seven years transportation on the Scarborough to NWS.
1783 - 17th August John Williams Steal 1 cotton gown & other goods Bodmin. Sentenced to death at Bodmin commuted to seven years transportation on the Scarborough to NWS.


August 16th Remissions 1784:

Sentence of death considered too harsh.



William Merrett alias Axford

Sentenced to death at Bodmin for horse stealing, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks

Quite a difference!

1784 - 20th March John Mollands Stole 48 guineas in coin Launceston. Death commuted to 7 years transportation of Australia on the Scarborough
1784 Thomas Russell Sentenced to death at Bodmin for sheep stealing, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks
1784 Mary Sampson For stealing from a dwelling house, recommended to 6 months imprisonment
1784 Dennis Kellyhorne alias Richard Mills For burglary, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 Robert Strickland For the same crime, burglary, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 Joseph Sceens For forgery, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks
1784 Elizabeth Humble For forgery, recommended to 1 years hard labour
1784 John Read. For forgery, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks
1784 Joshua Kemp For highway robbery, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 Edward Green Convicted for sheep stealing, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 John New For house breaking, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 Robert Case For privately stealing in a shop, recommended to 2 years on the Thames hulks
1784 John Earl For highway robbery, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 Richard Berry For highway robbery, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 Thomas Murray For highway robbery, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 James Spurway For wilfully killing a sheep with intent to steal the carcase, recommended to 3 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 Elizabeth Bason For privately stealing in a shop, recommended to 7 years transportation.
1784 James Green and Jacob Mills For sheep stealing, recommended to 5 years on the Thames hulks.
1784 Richard Francis For horse stealing, recommended to 5 years on the Thames hulks
1784 Robert Williams Tried and convicted at the Gaol Delivery held at Bodmin on Monday, 9 August, for horse stealing, Death commuted to 5 years at Thames.
1784 Elizabeth Vicary For stealing from a dwelling house, recommended to 7 years transportation.
1784 Samuel Holbrook For horse stealing, recommended to transportation for life.
1784 Charles George  Aged 7 Death sentence commuted to transportation
1785 - 19th March John Rowe Convict stole 2 cloth coats from a dwelling in Launceston. Death commuted to 7 years transportation on the Scarborough
1785 - 19th March William Rowe Stole a canvas bag. Death commuted to 7 yeas transportation to NSW.
1785 - 19th March Stanton Thomas Stealing 1 gelding (2 counts) at Launceston. Death penalty commuted to 7 years transportation on the Scarborough
1785 - 25 July 1785 Cornelius Teague Aged 19 Transported for seven years on the Scarborough February 1787 arrived NSW 25 July 1785 for stealing 90 gallons of cider
1785 - 25th July Jacob Cudlip Did steal a silver ring, money & other goods. Death commuted at Bodmin to Seven years transportation on the Scarborough
1785 - 25th July Timothy Discall Theft: Death commuted to 7 years transportation on the Scarborough
1785 - 25th July William Smith
Stealing 1 grappling iron & other goods in Bodmin. Death penalty commuted to Seven years transportation
1785  - 19 March William Connolly Did break, enter & steal 3 cloth coats & other goods at . Death commuted to Seven years transportation
1785 - 19th March Edward Moyle Stealing 2 cloth waistcoats & other items. Death commuted to Seven years transportation
1786  - 14 April Francis Carthy Death commuted to 7 years transportation on the Scarborough
1786 Robert Williams

Previously Williams had been convicted at the Cornwall Summer Assizes at Lostwithiel on February 6th 1784, for stealing a roan mare, property of Mr Penn, on 5 April 1784.

Grounds for clemency at the time: He was drunk at the time, service to his country (he had served on HMS Hebe) there was no violence involved in the crime, he had twice informed the gaoler at Bodmin of escape plans by other prisoners and in doing so had imperilled his own life.

Initial sentence: not given.

Recommendation: A free pardon instead of a spell of 5 years on the Thames in a prison hulk.

For his second crime for horse stealing again, drunk or not he got the death penalty commuted to Seven years transportation

1786 - 14th August William John Roberts Stealing yarn valued 9/- Bodmin . Death commuted to Seven years transportation
1787 - Monday 6th August William Marks

Was sentenced to death on the Bodmin magistrates court.

He had stolen  a watch from a house and had his execution commuted to 14 years.

1787 - Monday 6 August James Barnecoat Sentenced to death by hanging at Bodmin for burglary and theft of £73 of goods. His sentence was commuted to Life
1787 - Monday 6 August William Bolitho Highwayman, sentenced to death in Bodmin but was reprieved and his sentence reduced to 7 years penal servitude.
1787 - Monday 6 August Richard Reynolds Narrowly escaped the Bodmin gallows with a reprieve commuting the death penalty to seven years
1787 - Cornwall
Benjamin Dunstone Also a highwayman had his death sentence commuted to 7 years transportation
1787 William Marks Transported for 14 years
1787 Thomas Hocking

Transported to Australia on the Neptune for seven years. Thomas Hocking of Newlyn, a carpenter, was convicted at the Cornwall Spring Assizes in March 1787, for stealing a cow, property of Edward Coade, farmer at Probus, on the night of 15-16 December 1786. Sentence commuted on the petition of Edward Coade, Nicholas Crowle, servant; John Edwards, Innkeeper near Truro; Leonard Kendall; #

James Chapple, John Trebarton and Richard White. Grounds for clemency: previous good character.

1787 Richard Reynolds Seven years transportation
1787 Richard Skinner Seven years transportation
1787 John Rowling alias Rawling For horse stealing. Transportation for life
1788 John Pedlar alias John Penlitha Transported for seven years penal servitude on the Neptune for stealing Oxen
1788 John Congdon alias John Harris, For sheep stealing. Recommendation: 7 years transportation
1788 John Mailman
Transported for seven years
1788 Joseph Tyack Transported for seven years
1789 John Martin Transported for seven years
1789 Henry Skelton Transported 7 years for a burglary
1790 Richard James alias Thomas Dale Found guilty of horse stealing. Sentence reduced to 7 years transportation
1790 Thomas Mills Seven years transportation
1790 Thomas James Transported 7 years
1790 Mark Williams
Transported 14 years
1790 Walter Noy Seven years transportation
1790 - 20 March Zimram Uram

For stealing money from a dwelling house above the value of 40/-. Recommendation: 7 years transportation.

   " Joseph Bullock For house breaking. Recommendation: 7 years transportation
1791 Mary Ann Hugo Transported to Australia on the Pitt for seven years
1791 Thomas Gardner
Transported for seven years
1792 - 6th August Peter Retollo age 25 For burglary. Recommendation: transportation for life.
1792 Joseph Brawn For highway robbery. Recommendation: transportation for life.
1797 George Peach age 24 Transported for seven years
1797 Thomas Payton age 45 Transportation for 7 years
1801 Harriet Edwards Death sentence commuted to Life by transportation to Australia.
  Richard Andrews Alias Rowe Death sentence commuted to transportation for forging bank notes and passing them off in Penrhyn
1803 Rose Harris Transported for life.
1804 Mary Stratton Transported for seven years
1805 Thomas James Transported for 14 years.
1806 Jenefer Greenslade Transported.
1806 Anne Uren Transportation for life
1806 William Ure Transported for life
1807 Francios Fiudard
Transported to Australia on the Minerva in 1808 to serve a commuted life sentence
1807 Robert Pirriam 7 years transportation
1807 Mary Hatherleigh Transported to Australia on the Aeolus
1807 Ambroise Morin Transported for life on the Admiral Gambier
1807 William Olds Transported for life to Australia on the Admiral Gambier
1810 John Dennis Thomas Transported for 14 years on the Admiral Gambier
1833 John Stephens Transported to Australia
1819. - 12th July An unidentified man Man under sentence of death at Bodmin to be transported for life.
1849 - Monday 26th March Matthew Hobbs Convicted of stabbing with intent to kill and murder at the Assizes at Bodmin, Cornwall, 26 March 1849. Then aged 19 years and by trade a Labourer. Sentence: Death commuted to 10 years' transportation.
1849 - Wednesday 25th July Richard Nor ming ton Order and prison record from when he was convicted of Bestiality with an ass at the Assizes at Bodmin, Cornwall . Then aged 16 years and by trade a Miner. Sentence: Death commuted to Life years.
1853 - Monday 25th July Jane Chenoweth Then aged 18, Jane Chenoweth from Hurling Burrow, Cornwall. was convicted of the wilful murder of William Beard at the Court of Conviction - Cornwall Assizes, Bodmin. Sentence: Death by hanging. She was latterly pardoned upon condition that she is transported for life.
DATE UNKNOWN Thomas Carrie Sentenced to death for murder. Commuted to Penal Servitude for life - Bodmin Court
  T J McCartney Sentenced to death for murder. Commuted to Penal Servitude for life - Bodmin Court
1909 Sarah Elizabeth Visick Sentenced to death for murder. Commuted to Penal Servitude for life - Bodmin Court

COPYRIGHT Photographs

Bodmin Gaol Bridewell Revisited: Title Page

Cornwall Coat of Arms over Bodmin Jail Gate House

Derelict Cell Bodmin Jail

Graphic representation of  Public Executions at Bodmin Gaol

Bodmin Jail Tower graphic

Debtors Prison site, Bodmin in Cornwall.

Sign, Debtors Prison Bodmin

Architectural drawing, original Bodmin Gaol.

Elevation of Bodmin Jail

The Naval Block at Bodmin Jail.

Main Gate house Bodmin Jail

Warden and Chaplain's residences at Bodmin Jail

Chapel Window, Bodmin Jail

Tower Bodmin Jail

Interior of the derelict Naval Prison block, Bodmin Jail

Cell Window Bodmin Gaol.

Old naval Block at Bodmin Jail.

Cell window Bodmin Jail

Bodmin Jail Prison Plans

Bodmin jail cell with flash, taken through window looking inwards.

John Harrigan, slate inscription, Bodmin Jail.

Cell lock Key, Bodmin jail.

South East elevation, Naval Block, Bodmin Jail.

Rear facade & tower Bodmin jail cell blocks, south west.
Jail Birds at Bodmin Jail.


Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St.. Breward  North Cornwall England



Copyright: 2010 Jackie Freeman Photography St Breward Cornwall . All rights reserved

Unauthorized use of the images illustrated is prohibited and protected under international laws of copyright.





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