BODMIN JAIL - BODMIN GAOL - BODMIN PRISON, HM Prison Bodmin in Cornwall. Secret Britain - A History of Cornwall including a complete history of Bodmin Jail, with photo’s &  Images of Bodmin Jail - Cornwall. Jackie Freeman,


The Story, History and Images of Bodmin Gaol - HM Prison Bodmin Jail

The Bodmin Bridewell

Written & adapted for television by David Freeman for SECRET BRITAIN

An interesting historical over view of the unique history of

Bodmin Jail adapted from his TV series with photographs

by celebrated Cornwall Photographer Jackie Freeman

Bodmin Jail Bridewell                                       Arms of the Duchy of Cornwall  


Arms of the Duchy of

Cornwall at Bodmin Gaol



 or any ill fated commoner whose destiny turned him into a prisoner of Cornwall's sinister Victorian penal system, being cast into the cold and dark captivity of one of Britain's most terrifying prisons, the great Bodmin Gaol, was not for his reform as reformed as the system may have started to have become back then.

No. Bodmin's great jail was built for revenge.



Above: Photograph & Graphics © Jackie Freeman Photography

Looking into one of Bodmin Jail's  13 x 7 foot cells

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography -

St. Breward  Cornwall




Bodmin Jail Prison Cell.















Bodmin Jail's History

A look inside Bodmin Jail today

Life in Bodmin jail 

The fighting fairy woman of Bodmin

Anne Jefferies & the Bodmin Witch hunt.

Ghosts of Bodmin Jail
The Warden Ghost of Bodmin Jail

The ghost of Matthew Weeks.

The public execution & ghost of Selina Wadge
Bodmin Jail today

Bodmin Punishment.

The Bodmin Tread wheel

The Crank

Oakum picking

The Bodmin Jail Riot

The Bloody Code:

Capital Punishment at Bodmin

About the Bodmin Gibbet & Executions

Escapes from Bodmin Jail

Bodmin & the Pop Gun Plot


Bodmin - Death Penalty Remissions & Pardons













 en 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 cruel and unforgiving sentences demanded by the local magistrates of the time.

 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 an onion and the deprivation of all previously known human privileges to start!

 Here in Bodmin's sinister jail, 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 in the forboding prison at Bodmin were not uncommon and morbidity in Bodmin town bred a strange follower in those times.

The tens of thousands of Cornishmen and women, who were avid supporters of Bodmin's executioners and 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 of Bodmin Jail. To ogle and cheer at the crack of the trap and here at Bodmin, the gallows would be erected as it always was, in full view of the jeering 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 waifs here in Bodmin, it was.


Bodmin Jail child prisoner convict


 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 1820 and only back a snippet in time, 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.



Execution  odmin



Above: Graphic of Public Executions at Bodmin Gaol

John Harris for Horse theft. Death by Hanging

William Francis for sheep stealing. Hanged.

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.






Hanging shed Bodmin Jail

  In it Bodmin jail's defence, it's equally true to say that many of Bodmin's condemned criminal element met their end on the gallows for horrendous crimes. No less than 35 souls going to the hangman for various degrees of murder on the Bodmin gallows alone. All in all, at least 69 men and women were put to death here by the Bodmin hangman. Probably more.

 Of the balance of executions that took place at Bodmin and the jail, it's worthy to look back at the sort of crimes that the condemned prisoners paid the ultimate penalty for. Remembering that back then, theft of any sort was not to be tolerated by society and was viciously punished.

Both John Williamson and James Joyce were hanged at Bodmin for 'Breaking in to Miss Tyeth's shop'

 One Pierre Francois Xavier La Roche, a Frenchman and ex POW left over from the Napoleonic campaign & who couldn't speak any English at all, died horribly on the Gibbet on the 13th of April 1812 for the terrible crime of forging a two pound note.

His bravado is well recorded in that he was seemingly not at all bothered about his fate. This brought about great suspicion and when he was searched it was found that he had a carving knife ground down to a dagger secreted beneath his shirt. His plan? To assassinate the chief witness for dropping him in it.

He still was.


 It was July 1813 when a thirsty Ann Holman was convicted of stealing milk from a cow in Redruth and sentenced to two months in Bodmin jail.

Even the papers considered this to be a little harsh! But she was Lucky!

Because a 20 year old, Elizabeth Osbourne who set fire to a corn stack as she was jealous over the fact that her employer ate better bread than she did. For her crime she was publicly hanged on the Bodmin gallows.


So: Highway robbery, burglary, cattle and horse theft, stealing a purse and for "feloniously killing a mare" which sealed the fate of a Cornishman William Moyle, were all crimes met with death by hanging at Bodmin.

A complete List of Executions at Bodmin can be found here>



 More gruesome stories like that to come, but for now, let's take a look at Bodmin jail's history and step firmly into her dark grey past.













Bodmin Jail's History

Bodmin Jail Tower


Above left: Detail from the reconstructed execution shed, Bodmin Jail - Cornwall

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall













he year was 1780 and as a new decade began, Bodmin's Gaol became one of Britain's first purpose built prisons to be opened. The great British prisons were nicknamed Bridewell's after London's premier Gaol and as Bodmin's Bridewell opened its doors for the first time to Cornish criminals, the name stuck.

 Briton's prison reformists had proclaimed that the then dreadfully overcrowded communal jails and sheriffs ward's of England and Wales should be outlawed for once and for all and new penitentiaries built to house and isolate their inmates separately in single sex cells. Designed with each cell contained within large and airy cell blocks and with new stringent prison disciplines upheld. An imposed life of Silence, no communication, the most basic and measured diet and hard labour being the norm.





 ack in 1778, over in the nations capital, an act of parliament was being passed providing the finances and permissions for a new, purpose built 'house of correction' to be built in Cornwall. Recommendations suggested that it should be built on a site recommended for the jails construction in a town called Bodmin. A garrison town which could provide for the prison inmates 'clean air and pure water.'


 In the late 1700's Britain's grim debtors prisons were the terrible places that convicted or so called felons faced. Side by side with remand prisoners, vagrants, homeless, debtors, miscreants, unmarried mothers and the local riff raf. They were horrible jails with large numbers of prisoners crammed into desperate communal dungeons.

Bodmin's debtors prison and sheriff's ward, which was no better than most would eventually be closed, making way for a brand new Bodmin Jail complex proposed by the forward thinking High Sheriff of Cornwall, Sir John Call, who saw the Bodmin prison completed by Napoleonic prisoners of war in 1779. So it was inevitable that the influence of the French builders would have a major bearing on how the jail would finally look and today why Bodmin's Châteauesque features still dominate the Bodmin skyline today.



Bodmin jail painting



 Perhaps the earliest tantalizing view of the original Gaol at Bodmin in 1779, appears in the background of an oil painting by an unknown eighteenth century English artist of Sir John Call. Although the image of the prison may be only a representation by its artist & based loosely upon the original designs, its as close as we get. No drawings or engravings seem to have been made or survived in history.






 odmin's ruling town Burgesses agreed then to provide land for the building of the new Bodmin Gaol in fields called Berrycombe in order to replace the old Bodmin debtors prison and Sheriff's Ward which stood on the current site of the Hole in the Wall Pub in Bodmin.

 In those days, there was no formal police force to keep law and order in the town of Bodmin, that was to come much later thanks to PM Mr. Peel and it fell to the locally appointed sheriff to keep a watchful eye on any mischief or goings on in town.

A tankard or two too much ale and there were plenty of Taverns in Bodmin and it would be clink overnight and a sore head. Not paying your rent or naming the father of your illegitimate child was much more serious an issue and it met with a trip to the Bodmin assizes and a forlorn spell inside for your trouble. So the debtors prison and the Sheriff's clink were busy places in the Bodmin of old.






Debtors Prison, Bodmin Cornwall.


Bodmin Debtors Prison site, Bodmin Cornwall.

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall




Debtors Prison sign, Bodmin Cornwall.

Debtors Prison Bodmin

Debtors Prison Bodmin. Remains of the walls in the courtyard of the Hole in the Wall Pub.

Left: Sign, Debtors Prison Bodmin

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall




oday, little remains of the old Bodmin debtors prison and sheriff's ward which was replaced by the Bodmin Brewery which itself was pulled down at the beginning of the last century. Save that is for a placque marking the spot on which it stood and the remnants of Bodmin debtors prison's old walls in the courtyard of the Hole in the Wall pub.



Jackie Freeman photography





 o it was that the building of Bodmin's new jail, designed according to the great vision of John Howard began.

And just a 'vision' of the jail at the time it was too.


The problem was that the land on which Bodmin's new Jail would stand had never been surveyed by the original architect. Add to the problem that Howard's drawings of the prison buildings of Bodmin were set out almost romantically, with perfectly aligned and formal Georgian facades neatly laid out on totally flat land and there was a real situation brewing. Because these were the ornamental drawings that were given to the builders!


Architect design Bodmin Jail

Build that then men!

Now the prison builders of Bodmin had a bit of a problem. Their final interpretation of the new Bodmin Jail was naturally going to be somewhat different to the original plans which weren't really plans at all. lets call them visions and for no other reason then because it had to be. In the main the problem rested with the steepness of the hillside and unevenness of the land on which the gaol was eventually built and from which its stone too was quarried.

But build the Bodmin jail they did - all be it a little higgledy piggledy and with the help of a clever architect from Exeter called Thomas Jones and a forthright and energetic young project manager called James Chappel who would feature big time in the History of Bodmin Jail and in the history of Bodmin town too in the years to come.



 Bodmin's new gaol of the time was said to be an elegant set of buildings with Bodmin's Gaol being purpose built to include a Chapel, workshops, an infirmary, an administration block, kitchens and courtyards and all built in order to house up to a hundred inmates. 

But it rapidly became very clear to the authorities that the new prison buildings at Bodmin just weren't big enough to cope with the demand for prison accommodation. Remember, this was a time where criminal committals to Bodmin jail were increasing rapidly. So over the ensuing years, more and more of the Gaol at Bodmin was constructed and alterations to the old prison buildings made, leaving us with much of what we see today. A very different jail indeed.







Bodmin Jail Prison Buildings


Elevation of Bodmin Jail today . Showing; the Derelict Naval block top left, Warden and Chaplains houses centre, Main Gate house  right, Administration, Plenum Tower, position of the execution shed and civil prison beyond.

Photograph & Graphics © Jackie Freeman Photography




So why the sudden increase in inmates at Bodmin jail?


Bring in the  Bodmin Association

As Bodmin invents the very first Neighbourhood Watch scheme. 



 Around 1819, a huge increase in petty crime was descending upon Cornwall which was to put even more pressure on the overcrowded prison at Bodmin.

There are many reasons for this, starting with simple abject poverty and on to a prevailing view amongst magistrates that little would be tolerated so don't step out of line.

Previously, inmates of Bodmin Gaol were sentenced for their relatively minor crimes to suffer exceptionally harsh but often relatively short sentences. The local magistrates feeling comfortable with the notion that the short, sharp, shock treatment of a month or so with hard labour would be enough to do the trick and teach the lesson well to would be criminals.

As to the fate of the balance of criminals convicted of greater crimes ( See Bloody Code) they vacated their cells quite quickly too, but in a box! 

 All in all then, Bodmin’s prison inmates sentences were fairly short lived in terms of time being served and for some, so was longevity of life. 



 The Bodmin Association came about after local people, sick and tired of seeing their orchards being scrumped, vegetable plots rifled and their turnips stolen, were not best happy! 

Drunkenness on the streets of Bodmin was rife and considered disgusting, as was begging, and loose women were not to be tolerated in this reformed and very Christian Cornish town.

 A Bodmin townsfolk committee was duly formed and such was the community support that rewards of 2 Guineas a throw were offered on posters throughout the town for any good minded citizen to turn in miscreants and vagabonds.

A particular and very watchful eye was turned on the pubs of Bodmin for any landlords who encouraged any form of card playing, gambling or skittles because they would need to be swiftly dealt with. 

Vagrants and loose women, watch out! The Bodmin Association's arrived.

 Bodmin's tidy up team's result was to be an obvious one and the lure of the reward an overpowering success, putting even more pressure on the jail than it was already suffering.

So in an effort to double the warning to would be criminals, magistrates started to impose even harder and longer sentences and the Bodmin jail filled very quickly. 



John Atkyns, served time in Bodmin Gaol for stealing his friends shoes got two months hard labour in Bodmin.

Mary Rogers got six weeks  for breaking a window in the poor house but after all, it was the 22nd time she’d been locked up in Bodmin jail so they were about to throw away the key....... 

and James Mallet was charged for being an "incorrigible rogue and a vagabond" and sent to Bodmin prison for the tenth time!

Can’t have been all that bad in there then after all. But if you lived on the streets and in the poor house of Bodmin, there may be a balanced choice here.



 Truro followed on, quick on the heals of Bodmin's neighbourhood watch scheme with the imperious sounding 'Society for the Prosecution of Thieves' and offering large rewards on a sliding scale in accordance with the severity of the theft or nuisance!

Things escalated at the Quarter Sessions of Truro, Bodmin and Lostwithiel and Bodmin jail was soon near filled to capacity









 y 1836  Bodmin Jail's inmate capacity had increased from just 60 to 177, building up the possible convict population of the prison from 100 men, women and children to over twice what it was designed for if some cells were double occupied!

And over occupied Bodmin jail was, going against all reformist advisory, protocol and prison rules.


 Remember: There was meant to be no association between prisoners allowed under any circumstances and a strict rule of silence had be observed and ruthlessly enforced at all times as was commanded Sir Robert Peel in his Gaols Act of 1823!

So in order to reinforce that, by the mid 1850's it was clear that big changes needed to be made over at Bodmin and the prison had to be seriously extended.


 They literally tore the old jail apart, demolishing much of it, reusing materials and extending the jail with great haste. The new list of buildings at Bodmin Gaol, many of which can still be seen today is quite impressive in the time it took to raise it..

Bodmin Jail now had a main kitchen, a mill and a laundry with huge workrooms.

The Main Civil Prison Block contained a cell block section for males and a separate one for females.

It now also housed Bodmin prison's administration offices and a Chapel.

The Naval prison block, as we now call it, was linked to the main block by means of a first floor covered walkway. It had its own administration office, store rooms, a further kitchen and an infirmary built over part of the old gaol dungeons. The prison at Bodmin also now had three separate exercise yards.

It was going to be busy.

A change in Bodmin Jail had certainly come about.



Naval Block  Bodmin Jail  


The Old Naval Block at Bodmin Jail.

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography




 So by now the main gateway and staff quarters had been added, with the addition of various stables, a cart house to house the prison's Black Maria, part of which would one day become an execution shed. There were new houses for the navy's administration officers and impressive Victorian villas built for the two most important men at the prison, the Governor and the Chaplain. These werebuilt outside the prison walls which themselves had by now been strengthened, heightened and massively enlarged,





Gate house Bodmin Jail                                 Warden and Chaplain's houses  Bodmin Jail

Top: Main Gate house Bodmin Jail

Right Warden and Chaplain's residences at Bodmin Jail
Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography






Bodmin Jail Tower Cornwall

Chapel Window, Bodmin Jail

Chapel Window, Bodmin Jail

Left: Tower Bodmin Jail

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography













Today in Bodmin Gaol


















Derelict Naval Prison block, Bodmin Jail.


Interior of the derelict Naval Prison block, Bodmin Jail.

Right Cell Window Bodmin Gaol.

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography

St. Reward, Bodmin, Cornwall.







 oday, if you take a look inside the old Naval Block at Bodmin Gaol, which is now a completely derelict shell, is as awe inspiring as it is dreadful.


 Once massive slate balconies supported on metal posts, which still can be seen today protruding from the walls, were the only access the prisoners of Bodmin jail had to the tiny cells. Cells stacked four floors high.

To prevent suicides amongst the inmates of Bodmin jail, iron bars and wire mesh was stretched along the length of the balconies and the 2 1/2 inch thick wooden cell doors were reinforced with solid steel.

Bodmin Gaol was modern and escape proof!

At least for all but a few. Not quite so though. Bodmin was about to get its fair share of escape attempts.







Cell Window Bodmin jail.




 Ventilation and some times heat provided to the cells of a sort, came from air ducts and the only light from the tiny window which gave the prisoner no means of escape.



Naval Block at Bodmin Jail.

The old naval Block at Bodmin Jail.

Photograph & Graphics © Jackie Freeman Photography

St. Reward, Bodmin, Cornwall








Life  in  Bodmin  Jail

Cell window Bodmin Jail

Cell window Bodmin Jail

Photograph & Graphics © Jackie Freeman Photography

St. Reward, Bodmin, Cornwall







 Now, give yourself the benefit of a light and look in to the cell again. Now what do you see?


 Two slate corner shelves would have housed the prisoners meagre belongings. His tankard, a wooden spoon, a comb and perhaps a bible, which was utterly useless if you couldn't read.


 The square hole in the wall to the right of where once the great door would hang is the only contact the prisoner would have had with his captors whilst he was locked away and through which could be passed their food.  The rotted grille above the doorway was simply an air duct, only deep enough for occasional vermin that visited the appalling room might crawl through.

 Within his virtual sealed coffin, was placed a bucket of water, a wooden stool, a rough blanket and coverlet and a slop bucket. Once a week the prisoners would be issued with a piece of soap with which to wash. These were the  balance of the inmates possessions at Bodmin Gaol.

His niceties of life.

  Penal servitude meted out at this level gave a man time to reflect hard upon his wrongdoings or in many cases, his innocence!

Now turn off the light!









Click !




















 Peer through any one of the cell's outer windows at Bodmin Jail even on a bright and sunny day, past its crumbling rusty bars and beyond the long broken glass through which countless desperate faces of those interred here once gazed and you will get a reflection of the horror that faced the long forgotten inmates of Bodmin Jail.

 Look into the prison cell from the outside world without a lamp or torch light to aid you and you see very little, save for the glimmer of a damp and eerie light reluctantly given up by the old entrance doorway to the cell. A massively solid doorway which would once have been sealed as tight as a tomb with great locks and bolts. Then and only then do you get a feeling of just how the prisoners of Bodmin would have known it and suffered internment here.










Bodmin jail cell dungeon.

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

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St.. Reward  Cornwall.

Bodmin Jail dark dungeon


Here is how a Bodmin prisoner lived.














Bodmin Jail inmate inscription



John Harrigan was imprisoned in Bodmin jail in July of 1857, incarcerated for 6 years in the Naval wing at Bodmin prison.

He was 28 years of age and left us a dour reminder of his term in jail which he carved into the slate in the dark.

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St.. Reward  Cornwall





Bodmin Jail Cell key.


ife in one of Britain's most secure Victorian prisons, Cornwall's great and austere Bodmin Gaol was hard, harsh and mercilessly unforgiving for its inmates.

It was the rule.


 Prisoners here doing their time in the grim surroundings of Bodmin jail as with all other British prisons, were divided up into categories according to the serious level and stature their crime. So the prisons felons, those criminal types who had committed the more serious crimes such as Murder and Theft or as in one case for just being "an idle apprentice," clearly a very serious crime against society in the eyes of the Cornish Victorians, suffered the same degradation & hardship of living a prison life as did those who were remanded in custody & other Bodmin inmates who were awaiting trial or sentence & could not yet really defined as a criminal.

Clearly they were considered still innocent men until found guilty.


 So too, incarcerated here at Bodmin were the debtors serving time alongside simple misdemeanant'. All were locked away inside Bodmin Jail for relatively short, but sharp and cruelly punishing sentences.

For those sentenced to hard labour though, the punishment was to be even harsher.









Joan Wytte:

The fighting fairy woman of Bodmin





































Anne Jefferies & the Bodmin witch hunt.




















joan Whytte

Fighting fairy of Bodmin




 In 1824, the Governor of Bodmin Jail, a fine man called James Chappel who you will remember was the project supervisor when the jail was built and was the obvious man for the job of its full time Gaoler and Governor after the release of its interim governor Edmund Leach who was given the sack by complaining about the builder Thomas Jones and the standard of his workmanship. The complaints were dismissed by court as was Mr Leach!

By then, James Chappel had been at Bodmin jail for a long time and really made the place tick.

With so much clout and wind behind his sails, Governor Chappel made an application to the justice department to build a tread wheel at the jail in Bodmin built upon the lines of the wheel already installed at Brixton prison. And his application was warmly granted.

It was Governor Jim Chappel who also proudly boasted to the press at the time that there was never a man in Bodmin jail that he could not tame!

Of the women prisoners of Bodmin gaol, Governor Chappel had a very different opinion and Joan Wytte known as the fighting fairy woman of Bodmin was to give him some real trouble.




 Joan Wytte was known throughout Bodmin as a healer and a clairvoyant and a problem! Had it been only a few years earlier, Joan Wytte would have been labeled a witch and burned at the stake on Bodmin common.

As it was, she was considered by many Bodmin residents to be one anyway and she was often ridiculed in the street. Joan Wytte suffered continuous abuse by local people who saw Joan as a serious threat and as a result she would get into some terrible fights.

Joan Wytte displayed an incredible amount of strength in these all too common brawls with the locals which saw her raging & seeing off all opponents, including Bodmin men convincing the witch minded community that she was possessed by the Devil.

It became all too much for the Bodmin magistrate after one such bout which left them with no alternative but to commit her to a spell of their own, in jail in Bodmin.

 In the time she was incarcerated there, the violent outbursts didn't stop and it wasn't until her death in jail from pneumonia at the age of 38 that it was found that she had lived for years with an abscess under a tooth causing her unimaginable pain and it was only then realised that the poisoned abscess was a probable contributor to her delirious rages and great show of strength.

So Bodmin. A witch?

Perhaps not after all.




Bodmin Witch HuntBodmin Witches


 Witches of one sort or another around Bodmin and the surrounding moor stirred up serious fear amongst the over superstitious community, with many an innocent woman being flogged or worse, condemned as a witch and executed in horrendous ways.

 One such rather odd tale is the story of Anne Jefferies from the neighbouring village of St Teath, which is quite near to Bodmin in Cornwall.

 Although seemingly a well adjusted young lady, Anne Jefferies grew to be somewhat prone to fits, possibly epilepsy and had made wild claims that she was often visited by Cornish fairies who transported her to wonderful places.

It was a common sight for locals to see her dancing in the Cornish woodlands which today would have labelled her as a bit of a wild child!

However, Anne Jefferies also seemed to possess clairvoyant and healing talents which, believed by the community were attributable to witchcraft, was going to get her into trouble.

 In order to prove a particular point, Anne refused either food or nourishment whilst working in service to the Pitt family, presumably to reinforce the fact that she was being sustained and fed by the magical powers of the fairies!

Although today we's probably put this down to either a physical, a mental or psychological issue, accompanied perhaps by extreme Anorexia nervosa, (some commentators of the time agreeing that it was Distemper) But in the ancient days of the witch hunt, Bodmin saw it as a different thing altogether.


  In 1646 with Bodmin in the midst of the Civil War with the town recently taken by Lord Fairfax, the poor twenty year old Anne Jefferies was reported to the Cornwall's Justice of the Peace who charged her with communicating with evil spirits and she was ordered to be confined in the house of the new Mayor of Bodmin literally under house arrest. It was here, in his house & whilst in his custody, that she was starved without food or water to see if she could uphold her claim that she'd be protected by the fairies!

Incredibly and no one to this day knows why or how, she survived the ordeal still claiming that she was being fed by the fairies and was released living on in Cornwall till the ripe old age of seventy.


 Now, contrary to the popular belief of many British Ghost Hunters converging on Bodmin, Ann Jefferies was not thrown into the great Bodmin Jail. Remember, it was neither built nor opened till thirty four years later in 1780. So any claims that Bodmin Jail is haunted by the ghost of Anne Jefferies who was cast in there as a witch and starved to death as her punishment, is actually a myth.

 It's also a little bit suspicious upon reflection that the ghost of young Anne Jefferies decided to spend eternity haunting a place that hadn't been built yet and that was a mile and a half away from where she didn't die!









Witches cauldrons and coverns Bodmin

 The tales and the mysteries surrounding Cornish witches, literally flew around the county in these times with the witches reputations becoming more and more exaggerated and impressive as the great Cornish whisper evolved.


 The Cornish whisper is much like Chinese whispers excepting that not only was the embroidery more fanciful but the accuracy of the story lacked a certain amount of finesse! So if someone held a grudge, a jealous streak or a suspicious mind and most had as Bodminites were being encouraged to be prudent in pin pointing prospective troublemakers and criminals and turn them in for the sheriff's purse, it was deep water of the wrong sort for many of Bodmin’s possible witches.

 Sadly as the records show, most accusations of witchcraft flying around Cornwall were made by women against women, particularly young women against older women.

It was inevitable that the effectiveness of natural herbs and the disinfectant properties of certain wells and water courses on the human body would lead to terrible concerns and stories of local witchery in Bodmin if a healer gave you a potion from its source all wrapped up pretty with feathers, shells and wild flowers!


 In the summer of 1682, just over the border in Devon, three so called witches from Bideford,  Temperance Lloyd, Susanna Edwards and Mary Trembles had been hanged  at Exeter, so a careful and ever witchful eye was centred on any woman in Bodmin who vaguely resembled a witch.

Cornish witch, Tammy Blee, just down the road from Bodmin in Helson, old Granny Boswell a Romany witch and another Helston witch are prime itchy witchy examples. There was Cornish witch Dolly Pentreath, the fish-wife of Mousehole and these were all feared and revered in  the tales of the times in Bodmin.

Madge Figgey witch


 Madge Figgey a witch from Burian, the Trewe witches from Zennor and sorcerer witch  Madam Noy pitched forks against alongside Old Joan the wicked witch. Each and every one of them conjouring up formidable if not inaccurate reputations in witch fearing Bodmin.  

The list of active witches in Cornwall and the stories of satanic rites and incantations read like a hit parade of witchery:

  Aunt Alsey the Anthony witch, the Witch of Fraddon and the Enchanter witch of Pengersick made Cornish withcraft history.

And the St Levan Witches who gathered at Treen Dinas were still heavy on the minds of Bodmin folk even as late as 1880. And all these Cornish witches held mystical and even more so, emotive power over the minds of folk in Cornwall.

So over in Bodmin, look out if you were a healer!

But Doctors of course didn’t count!













Ghosts Bodmin Jail


 Of other Ghosts, apparitions and spirits that seem to be haunting & manifesting themselves in the old Goal of Bodmin, there are plenty of stories and sightings'



 Matthew Weekes, our regular ghost number one, was executed in Bodmin in 1844 for the alleged murder of Charlotte Dymond on Rough Tor. The ghost of Matthew Weekes is said to wander the darkened hallways of Bodmin's jail, having been hanged on the drop gallows erected outside the walls of the jail. It's also believed and the story told by locals how he wanders in limbo having died for a crime that he knew he didn't commit!






Warden Ghost Bodmin

The Warden Ghost of Bodmin Jail.


 Number two ghost on the spectre list at Bodmin it's said is of the spiritual ghost of a Warden named George. He, the warden ghost, haunts Bodmin jail its said and is experienced regularly manifesting himself in the old Bodmin cell blocks and cold, dark hallways.


 The story goes that Bodmin jail staff member 'George' suddenly died from a heart attackwhilst on duty at the prison and he now keeps a ghostly and ever watchful eye on what he considers to be "his jail."

 Fortunately if the tale is indeed true, there are only a few people in Bodmin jail's unique history that this spectre could actually be.


 One past life identity for our warden's ghostly manifestation would be the civil prison Governor - George Colvill who was at his desk in Bodmin jail from 1860 to 1878.

Frankly, most ghost hunters think or thought it was probably his earth bound spirit!


The problem with identifying George Colvill as the earth bound ghostly figure seen so often in Bodmin's dungeons, is that his Christian name was actually Hugh and not George which was his second name and he died on the 4th of August 1906 at the ripe old age of 84.

Do the maths and that's a full twenty eight years after he retired from Bodmin jail where he obviously could not have died!

And he was not a Warden, he was Governor. But he was the boss. So not him I fear.



 Our number two ghostly culprit is George H Sandford.

 Now George Sandford was a warder in the old Bodmin jail in the 1870's but what is known is that he died in Bodmin at 84 years of age. So not of a heart attack suddenly at Bodmin jail. He'd retired years earlier and moved on.


 Ghostly manifestation number three may be the ghost of George Shaftain.

This George was the colourful gate man at Bodmin jail who was born in 1824. 

But it can't be him either as he died nearing 68 somewhere up in north Devon.




So who is the spectre, the Warden ghost of Bodmin jail?


 The fourth spectre manifesting himself in the Bodmin jail ID parade is a much more likely candidate.

 That's a prison officer called George Harrison ( no connection obviously)

Now he was a 'warder' in Bodmin Jail and not a 'warden,'  but that may just be a semantic error on behalf of those who report seeing his apparition and of no significance.

George Harrison worked at the jail in the decade 1851 to 1861 and did die young it seems at the age of just 50.

That came about quite suddenly in 1861 as records have it.

But how, or where we just don't know.

Maybe the next time the Warden Ghost of Bodmin Jail is confronted by a ghost hunter, he should be asked his identity.

Eerie non the less! Maybe public Ancestry records will tell if you have the time and are signed up to get?







Selina Wadge


Selina Wadge is the other ghostly spectre most commonly reported at Bodmin Jail and this is her story:

The Execution and Ghost of Selina Wadge





Ghost at window Bodmin

 Selina Wadge, indicted and later incarcerated at Bodmin Jail for the murder of her illegitimate child in Altarnun near Launceston, was expected to be reprieved by the Home Secretary, Viscount Cross on the day of her hanging at Bodmin, the 15th of August 1878. 

The Home Secretary in his wisdom; "Did not see fit to interfere with British justice," and the reprieve did not come.

This blatant refusal of clemency caused some ructions and rumblings amongst many commentators and indeed officials who considered that Selina Wadge could in fact simply be be mentally ill.  Therefore a woman likely not responsible for her actions or her crime and a prisoner who should have been simply sanctioned and sent to the Bodmin Asylum and not the gallows!

However, that was not to be.


 Perhaps, had the sharp eared lawyers of today's times been around back then, they may just have have got her off.


 The utterly stupid and quite unsupportable stories which she told in her defence and which came out in damning evidence against her are one thing. One witness citing in an interview that Selina Wadge's four year old son had spoken out against his mother when she was telling the witness that her boy had died of a throat infection and an abscess and had been buried in the churchyard.. The little boy chirped up, "it is in a pit mother!"  Well, that condemnation was taken as read and from a four year old!

Whether this evidence is indeed evidence or seen as hearsay or even admissable in court is a question to ask yourself, but it was certainly accepted and taken into consideration at here trial and contributed big time to the final decision of the judge.

The judges blooper in sentencing her was something else though.

 Now, this senior magistrate had heard a lengthy and detailed case implicating Selina Wadge in the wilful murder of her two year old son by throwing him down a well and drowning him.


 A reasoned conclusion as to her guilt was reached by all twelve jurers who made a point of asking the judge to have mercy on her as they did not feel the murder was premeditated.

He didn't agree. But he disagreed with a lot of things.

In his sentencing  of Selina Wadge the judge said;


"Selina Wadge. You have been found guilty upon evidence which is impossible to resist, of throwing the body of your child, two years old, down a well. This could have been done with only one intention."


 It seems rather clear that in this statement, that judge was mixed up and felt the child was already dead  before he was thrown down the well and as she had been found guilty of killing him by drowning during the trial, she couldn't have killed him twice!

Did he really understand what this case was all about!

 A miscarriage of justice, inadmissible evidence, a deranged accused who may have actually been mentally unsound or otherwise? It hardly matters now , because Selina Wadge was about to pay for this crime with her life.








Execution Selina Wadge

The Execution of Selina Wadge



 An isolated part of Bodmin prison was selected for the execution of Selina Wadge to take place. Set within in a small quiet enclosed section of the south west part of the jail and a scaffold duly erected there. The place for her execution within the prison confines was almost purpose built for the job, though likely accidentally so.

Beyond an obvious arch which now take us to the cycle parking area of Bodmin jail is a semi enclosed courtyard of prison buildings.

 This courtyard originally served a useful domestic purpose as supply carts could pull in and directly unload their cargo through a small first floor doorway into the kitchen store as can clearly be seen visible half way up the image to the right

That first floor doorway however held more ominous prospects for future executions at Bodmin jail.

A matter of only ten metres to the left of that doorway are the condemned cells of Bodmin Gaol.

Even today, above and to each side of the doorway can be seen the 4 iron fixings which once supported the side drop gallows floor with its trap and gallows framework.

 Reports of the time indicate that a scaffold was erected here but built with steps, putting paid to the view that Selina Wadge was the first to enter the scaffold through the doorway. Clearly this would happen later or had been the case even earlier, with Selina Wadge being afforded some further dignity with which to exit the world.

 It is more than likely that the end wall of the courtyard which is what we have our backs to in the photograph (right) was not yet constructed at the time of her execution and the courtyard and archway were more a through roadway.

This openness would in turn allow for those members of the public watching proceedings from Asylum hill who'd enjoy a very good view of proceedings would be a problem for Hugh Colvill the prison Governor who was an honorable and decent man.

Execution yard Bodmin Jail






Executions Bodmin jail.

  Female executions were at best distasteful in the eyes of some of the prison's authorities and it soon became obvious to observers that the event was being eagerly awaited by an ever growing crowd outside Bodmin jail's prison walls. Particularly by Bodmin's womenfolk who had been gathering on the banks and outside the jail entrance and up on Asylum hill since dawn.

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

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.


 We are told that a solemn but utterly repentant Selena Wadge climbed the gallows stairs 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 executioner, mercifully released the bolt which plunged Selena Wadge eight feet into her eternity.



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 trap, hanged with such rapidity that she did not even drop her handkerchief.





Ghost Selina Wadge.

About the Ghost of Selina Wadge:


  On a more light hearted note, one must also question the reasoning behind any of the ghost stories surrounding Selina Wadge and simply ask why such a repentant, religious woman, one imminently facing her maker, a God fearing woman who had displayed such forgiveness to her partner for his part of deceiving her and which contributed to the crime, would be left in the 'nether - lands' by her God, some place betwixt heaven & hell, and would now be appearing as a ghost traipsing around Bodmin jail at every ungodly hour haunting the daylights out of pregnant women and scaring children to death!

No sense at all!












  Eerie it may be, awe inspiring it certainly is but it has to be said that you immediately sense the presence and the dreadful plight of the long gone prisoners at every turn in Bodmin jail.

But no more so than deep with in the oldest cells of the gaol, in Bodmin prison block's dungeons, built here in King George’s time.


Bodmin Jail gatehouse



 Beyond the steps leading to the reception rooms of the Civil Administration block, a road that every prisoner of Bodmin jail would walk, lies its deepest, darkest and oldest dungeons in the bowels of the jail. An ominous place housing the condemned cells and solitary confinement units, the punishment cells and whipping room.

Warden Bodmin Jail

Stepping back in time, the warden and staff of the old Bodmin Jail

on the steps of the administration building in the early 1900's.



 Irrespective of your religious beliefs or trust or otherwise in the existence of the supernatural, or even your feelings about the dark Satanic powers of the unknown, Bodmin jail’s great stone walls seem to echo the terrible plight of those it held captive, taking you back into a time where the shuffling of a hundred chained and shackled feet could be heard echoing around the exercise yard.

A place where Bodmin’s sad incarcerated  prisoners, dispirited heads bowed and silent, in constant fear of a whipping once trudged.



 These walls would have seen countless thousands of desperate men and women over the centuries and surely it is the prisons walls themselves which will have listened to every story, every whispered conversation, witnessed  every tear and heard every silent prayer.


It is hardly a wonder that paranormal activity and sighting's of unexplained presences, eerie lights and sounds and ghostly apparitions are reported by so many visitors to Bodmin Jail, be they serious paranormal investigators, inquisitive ghost hunters or just the impressionable visitor who watches far too much You Tube!







Bodmin Jail today


 odmin Jail is run these days as a successful Cornish tourist attraction. An important historical venue that includes a licensed bar and restaurant with a substantial part of the old Bodmin jail rebuilt and regenerated by the current owners, much restored to its original state and to their great credit.


 Serious ongoing excavations at Bodmin Jail are constantly uncovering more and more British history, with the jail unravelling its secrets and giving up its history to many academics who are drawn there.

One such example is this tunnel  lying deep underground. Perhaps once a walkway from the old judging rooms of the first prison to the dark holding cells and dungeon. Perhaps a secret tunnel, only known to the jail's very first officers. Maybe we'll never know.


 In this day and age it is ridiculous that with so many vestiges of British history to discover and rediscover here, assistance is not forthcoming for further research and development through either Lottery, Government or National Heritage funding. These financiers see the place solely as commercial and walk away.

What then of Windsor?




Tunnel below the dungeons, Bodmin jail.

Recently excavated tunnel below the dungeons, Bodmin jail.

 Records show that this may very well be an old disused passageway between the women's cells and the main block which we know James Chappel back in 1779 had ordered blocked up for some reason. Or it may hold more sinister secrets!

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall




Prison administration block Bodmin Jail

The old Prison administration block Bodmin Jail today













 Ghost hunting and paranormal activity events are popular activities here at Bodmin jail and held at the old prison regularly.

Hands up for some though.

 For those ghost hunters and apparition seekers along with so many of you who really do believe that you have a true to life photo of a long dead convict, still locked up in his cell in the after life, here's a reason why you shouldn't be so scared.


 Please note that the two ghostly faces in the prison cell windows above the cycle park to the left of the old administration block (see photo on above right)  are in fact life size manikins, put there to entertain and not scare the Bejesus out of Granny!




Ghosts? The faces of the prisoners in Bodmin Jail

Ghosts? The faces of the prisoners in Bodmin Jail

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall

Ghostly faces in Bodmin Jail




Ghostly faces in Bodmin Jail's cell windows.

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall











 Having diverted somewhat from our original plot, if you recall, we left the Governor of Bodmin Jail, a man called James Chappel back in the 1800's ordering up a nice new punishment wheel for his convicts:












The feared Bodmin tread wheel.



  massive six foot diameter timber convict breaker was erected behind the main prison block with the capacity to house up to 26 prisoners at a time. Each prisoner separated from the next in cubicle like wooden sections devised to restrict any form of communication between them during their daily ordeal.

Back in the 1840's the prisoners were forced to drive the step like apparatus continuously climbing as the steps revolved for several hours a day.

 It's true that tread mills and tread wheels were often put into use to supply power to drive belts for machinery such as pumps, lathes and mills. But contrary to popular opinion, the Bodmin tread wheel was not first used to grind grain. Here at Bodmin, the purpose was much more sinister.

 Take away from a man the privilege of serving any useful purpose what so ever to his relentless trudging all day on the punishing treadmill and the futility of the work would devastate even the hardest of convicts subjected to its toil. Having served no use for their exhausting effort demeaned their punishing work and the whole episode was seen as utterly pointless. Punishing the men physically yes, but psychologically as well to unbelievable depths.

Hard labour at Bodmin was indeed just that.

 It wasn't until much later that a new wheel, a copy of the dreaded tread wheel at Brixton jail was attached to milling machinery at the prison and a brand new monster tread wheel constructed. This one in a great shed, some 80 feet long was capable of housing 32 prisoners at a time in four separate groups of eight, Again, with each convict separated from the next by wooden screens to allow no contact or communication.

The tread wheel was a cruel and bitter experience for the men to go through, which lead many of those condemned to the Bodmin Tread wheel to the brink of riot.


And riot they did.













Bodmin Jail Tread wheel

The Bodmin Jail Riot:


 In May of 1827 a man called James Sowden, a Cornish miner, was sentenced to six months with hard labour in Bodmin Jail for his part in a vicious drunken attack on two police officers in Cambourne.

 Sowden, a bullish man, became the ring leader of a group of Bodmin prisoners who had been ordered to the treadmill for their crimes and steadfastly refused the punishment at the governors orders and mutinied.

 The desperate and angry Bodmin prisoners smashed the railings which surrounded the tread wheel apart and armed themselves with bludgeons threatening to set upon their prison guards. In the dramatic stand off which followed, a rider was sent out to the town to inform the Bodmin magistrates of the trouble at the jail and seek the help of the local militia. The militia were immediately rallied and a highly armed and unsympathetic Cornish force were dispatched to the jail.

Without any discussion or sympathy for the prisoners, the militiamen soon put down the uprising with calculated brutality though not a shot was to be fired..

 Sowden, the agitator and leader of the mutineers was re ordered back to the treadmill by their captors but stood their ground and refused. He was immediately knocked to the ground by a hail of militiamen's rifle buts and was bound & dragged away screaming and swearing under the order of the governor to be flogged with a cat o nine tails till he bled.

In fear of similar dreadful retribution, the remainder of Bodmin's rioting band of convicts resigned themselves to reenter the punishment wheel without further complaint.

Perhaps a fair trade?






The Crank.



 A new invention of legal torture was devised and introduced as hard labour machine into British prisons around this time which was called the crank.

The object of the exercise, no matter what design was applied to the appalling machine was identical. Make the crippling effort the inmate suffered absolutely fruitless for the solitary convict who operated it.

 A great metal handle attached to linkages and cogs protruded from either the cell wall, with its inner workings on the other side, or was encased within a framework inside the cell.

Cogs were in turn attached to a spindle containing paddles or in some cases scoops.

When the crank handle was turned by the unfortunate prisoner, the paddles were forced through a container of sand. The scoops lifted the sand and immediately deposited it back in the reservoir from whence it came for no purpose other than such was the resistance of the sand that the effort to turn the crank became harder the more he worked.

But the continuing effort of working the mechanism also had the effect of heating up the cogs which in turn became even harder to turn. It was an ever increasing vicious circle of futility and pain and a never ending more and more difficult task for the convict to achieve.

This punishment was what the prisoner suffered for up to eight hours in his day.

 If the prison guards were of a mind to or if the prisoner slacked or slowed, they could adjust the tension of the dreadful machine by turning a screw which increased the handle's resistance & made it even harder for the convict to turn.

Here then the origins of the prisoners nickname for their warders, 'screws' coming from the ordeal on the crank as a result.

Slack off too much or refuse the punishment and you would be lashed until you did it right!

The screw was indeed a lesser and kinder punishment!


Cell Door and peep hole. Bodmin Jail

Original Cell Door and peep hole. Bodmin Jail




Oakcum Picking:


 One thing every incarcerated inmate of Bodmin jail had in common was a laborious daily task. One he had to complete with in a given time frame and in total silence of course . Like it or not, this occupation of time and energy was a good income earner for the prison and that task was Oakum picking.





Crank Bodmin Jail

 Now given that only a few miles away in Plymouth and Falmouth were a large number of ships all being refitted before setting back out to sea, their old tarred ropes and rigging were in plentiful supply to Cornish prisons. So was the need for a fresh caulking material with which the shipwrights could seal the cracks between the great wooden planks which made up the ships decks and hulls. So it was left to the inmates of Bodmin prison and other around them in the west country such as Dartmoor prison convicts, to do the work to strip out the ropes raw material which was called Oakum. And all by hand.


 Every day, for up to 2 hours a day, the silent prisoners would be presented with two pounds in weight of trimmed out rigging ropes, short enough so the rope could not be used either for their suicide or for harnessing their captors in a mutiny.

Using only their fingers, the prisoners had to unravel the rope, strand by strand and twist apart the fibres which made it so strong between palm and thigh.

 This occupation was a tedious, mind numbing and for many, a crippling job. One which left the fingers blistered, bleeding and numb.

untwisted fibres falling at his feet destined to be mixed with fresh tar and used in the ship yards, would be collected and weighed and low betide the prisoner if he or she had not recycled the correct amount or had not done so in the allowed time.

You may have to miss your meal and go hungry for the night if you did or be punished with a whipping or a spell on the tread wheel!





Breaking Bodmin Rock.

 There was no shortage of stone left over from the various jail building projects at Bodmin and from around the quarry from which it was taken. So the exercize yard at Bodmin jail doubled in purpose & had several mounds of boulders which the chosen few attended.

The object of the exercize?  To smash the boulders into gravel sized pieces, grade and select them piece by piece into various sizes which could be then sold on for use in filling holes in roads and for other Bodmin building projects.

Hard, hard labour! Hard labour which was halted when an inmate, unhappy at the privilege bestowed upon him to make gravel out of rocks as big as a head, attacked his warder with a sledge hammer and broke his leg!












                                              SECRET BRITAIN

                                              Part IV






Naval Block, Bodmin Jail


South East elevation, Naval Block, Bodmin Jail

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall





 ittle has changed here since the great jail at Bodmin was finally closed down back in 1922 as the vintage photograph of the prison will testify. Save that the old railway track between Bodmin and Wadebride which cuts in front of the prison where the swathe of vegetation appears, is now long gone.




Vintage photo Naval Block, Bodmin Jail


 or the well informed tourist or visitor to Cornwall who makes the pilgrimage to Bodmin in search of her secrets and sees the jail for the first time, a certain romance seems to court her.


 Bodmin jail's huge façades must put Cornwall's visitors in mind more of the great castles and manors of England rather than the grim fortress of detention that it actually was.

 Mother nature, after imposing a century of dereliction and decay upon Bodmin's great Gaol is today slowly returning many of the buildings to her keeping. The huge prison wings are covered with ivy and moss and the only jail birds here now are the roosting pigeons that inhabit the uppermost cells.



Bodmin jail cell blocks


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

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall


Jail Birds at Bodmin


Jail Birds at Bodmin Jail !

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall






Vintage photo Bodmin Jail












Public Execution

Bodmin and its public executions:




 ack in the times when the prison was operating at full capacity, in the gap which appears in the prison wall in front of the Naval block, you would find the site of the original prison's main gate and a favoured position for the public executions which took place here.

Behind the railway line, from where the photograph was taken, were elevated fields called Scarlett's Well meadows on which tens of thousands of people could congregate to observe the spectacle which was to be rolled out before them. Train loads of people, carried in from Bodmin's surrounding villages would line the carriage windows of the trains which would halt here, vying for the best vantage point to witness a hanging.



Architect plans Bodmin Jail





 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;


Public execution document


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?”











Bloody Code

The  Bloody  Code:

Capital Punishment - Death by Hanging at Bodmin.


 Here in Great Britain way back in the year 1820, there were no  less than 220 crimes for which an Englishman could be hanged.

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, willful 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 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, child or man and you may end up wishing you hadn't.




Child convict Bodmin




 To make absolutely certain that the 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.


 Thomas Rowlandson, the 19 C. English caricaturist who so famously put St Breward on the map by drawing an image of the inside of its church for his acclaimed series based around Dr Syntax, recorded many a gruesome public event as we shall see.










Bodmin Gallows
The  Bodmin  Gibbet.

Bodmin's three legged mare.

 At a place called Five lanes which some call Five Ways in Bodmin, on a high hill overlooking the 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 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 the town. A very clear warning indeed that that Bodmin magistrates would certainly have no truck or tolerate lawbreakers here.





 By now, British society had changed the original use of the gibbet, leaving 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 end result was the same.


 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 was pulled up 'next the crossroads.'

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



 The earliest recorded 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 strung up on the gibbet or gallows for your crime against 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 back then was certainly a crowd pleaser and a well attended event it was that was exceptionally good for the traders of Bodmin.


 Bodmin's Inns and lodging houses burst at the seems the night before a 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.




 hanging Bodmin



Threed legged mare Bodmin








































 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

 If a cart wasn't available, a condemned prisoner 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.




 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, 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 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 met his 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 executions at Bodmin. It was primarily developed to lessen the anguish of those witnesses who by law had to attend an execution. The prison Governor and the Chaplain.

Mar wood's long drop method, by correctly positioning the knot of the noose under the left ear stopped it from twisting and the  hangman's rope, adjusted to a restricted length calculated by the weight and height of the prisoner, ensured the neck was broken cleanly as the prisoner fell through the trap and his weight and momentum did the rest.

Actually this form of hanging leads to comatose asphyxia i.e. the condemned prisoner still dies by asphyxiation 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 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.


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


Australia was a firm favorite and a pretty fair option to the gallows it must have been. The rest is history










Bodmin Jail escapes

Bodmin Jail Breaks

Escapes from Bodmin Gaol


 Escape from Bodmin Jail two hundred years ago was really a little silly if you consider the relatively short time that so many of the inmates had to serve.

Just sit it out and you would be .... out !!!

But in its early rather insecure state back then many attempts at escape from Bodmin Gaol did occur.  

There were 10 recorded at least back then and there were probably many more and most were achieved by bribery rather than cunning.


But first, one escape attempt that concerned one of Bodmin Jail most notorious criminals, an inmate called

Robert Cross field.










Pop gun plot

Bodmin and the POP GUN PLOT

Robert Cross field tries to abscond before he gets to Bodmin Jail.


  One of Bodmin jails most well know prisoners or should we say infamous inmates albeit briefly was a man called Robert Thomas Crossfield.


Now Robert Cross field was committed to Bodmin Gaol on an exceptionally serious charge, on suspicion of High Treason back in August of 1795.

His crime is cited as, “ imagining the death of the Lord the King, September 8, 1794”

A class one crime which naturally carried the death penalty! 


 Story goes that Robert Cross field was on the fringe of a group of radical critics of the Pit government who plotted to murder the King, George III. He was a paid up member of a society known as the London Corresponding Society for Reform of Parliamentary Representation.

The Pop Gun plot, as it was to become known, was so called because the hard line group of militants within the group had planned at least to assassinate the King by firing a poisoned dart from an air gun ay him whilst the King was at the theatre. 


 With the modern day gunpowder plot exposed, members of the society were tracked down and eventually Robert Cross field was arrested one night in Foie. 

The evening of his arrest, 31 August 1795, Robert Cross field made a valiant attempt at escape from Bodmin prison before he even got there!  



 That evening around nine, Robert Cross field,  perhaps by then a little worse for wear for his earlier session of wine was being escorted by sheriff Walter Comer and a man called Edward Stoker who were both constables from Foie. They travelled  in the post chaise to Bodmin ( The Post Chaise was four-wheeled coach or carriage drawn by fast horses, which were changed at each post. ) So off they went driving from the Cornish sea port of Foie the twenty miles of so to Bodmin Gaol.

Suddenly, quite out of the blue, Robert Cross field offered the men a bribe of a guinea apiece to let him go and take the irons off his hands.

  Pointing out the obvious irony of the situation, that the officers would only have but a few shillings between them to escort him to Bodmin prison he tried adding a curt threat to the bribe, warning his guards that he was man enough to take both of them. But was ignored.


  Some time after that, he upped the stakes even further by offering the two guardsmen an astonishing 2 guinea’s each !


The sheriff enquired of Crossfield that if they did let him go, what would he do with the driver of the coach?

Crossfield replied; “ If I were to have one of your pistols, I would pop at him and soon settle the business!”

Wanting no part of a murder charge set against them as accomplices, Crossfield was ignored again , so he gave up, resigning himself to a spell in prison and went to sleep in the carriage.


So this escape from Bodmin jail was foiled before he even got there!


Crossfield was eventually taken to London and imprisoned in the Tower and faced trial at the Old Bailey with Paul Thomas La Maitre, John Smith and George Higgins for conspiracy and treason.

He got away with this too and was found not guilty of all charges and discharged immediately.





Bodmin jail with the old Bodmin Lunatic Asylum far left.

Bodmin Jail Bodmin Lunatic asylum







On we go with other Great Escape stories from Bodmin Jail :






 Jack Rattenbury

         S M U G G L E R

The man who got away

Jack Rattenbury Smuggler


 Jack Rattenbury the Cornish smuggler is best known as 'the one that got away' and unlike Robert Crossfield he did exactly that, escaping from his guards sent to bring him to Bodmin Gaol to serve out his sentence.


 Now, Jack Rattenbury is not nearly as famous as a smuggler but more so because he wrote a diary bragging about his criminal activities and then published it. His entry about escaping from Bodmin Gaol before he got there sums up the discipline of the jailers in the early years and how the public felt about romantic highwaymen and Cornish smugglers.

He tells us;

"We were put into two post-chaises, with two constables from Bodmyn to take care of us and were sent forward to Bodmyn gaol.


 As our prison guards stopped at almost every public-house we came to, towards evening they became pretty merry; and taking advantage of this circumstance, I was determined to find some place for making my escape.

Accordingly, when we came to the Indian Queen, (a public-house, a few miles from Bodmyn,) while the constables were taking their potations, I bribed the drivers not to interfere.

 Having finished, the constables ordered us again into the chaise, but we refused. A scuffle ensued. One of them collared me, some blows were exchanged and he fired a pistol, the ball of which went off close by my head. My companion in the mean time, was engaged in encountering the other constable and he called upon the drivers to aid and assist, but they said it was their duty to attend to the horses.

We soon got the upper-hand of our opponents, and seeing a cottage near, I ran towards it, and the woman who occupied it was so kind as to show me through her house into the garden and to point out the road.

I made the best of my way forward and when I had proceeded about a mile, on looking back, I perceived a man following me, upon which I crept into a ditch for concealment. When the person came up, he hailed me by name and I found it was my fellow-prisoner, who had made his escape likewise, through the aid of the woman at the cottage.

 We then went on our journey together, and towards evening, we met with a party of men, who were smugglers like ourselves; and having told them our adventures, they behaved very handsomely to us, and took us the same night to a place called Newkey, where we slept.





Escape Bodmin Part II

Escapes from Bodmin Jail - Continued.



 Due to poor security conditions of the early Gaol and down right negligence at times of its guards, many of whom were 'a bit Bodmin' or partial to a bribe, there were quite a large number of escape attempts made at Bodmin Gaol. Details are however sketchy and only vague mention is made in old newspaper articles of the time and various letters which turn up in archive.


 An interesting Bodmin escape however is that of a man called called Parsons, who had already escaped once and did so yet again having stolen five pounds from a prison warder who was dozing.   He picked the lock of the cell block, got over the wall and made it into Bodmin where he spent the five pounds he'd taken on drink in the pub.

With no cash left and realising that he had nowhere to go and would have to sleep rough, Parsons took himself back to the Gaol, rang the gate bell and turned himself in to the gatekeeper!

Parsons was a  a pretty clever man though . He'd escaped twice from Exeter prison on previous occasions and was an excellent lock picker. Leave anything metal lying around that he could twist and get into the eye of a padlock and he'd be off!


1812: August 27th. George Kendall a local blacksmith and John Bayley who was described as a travelling Tinker, escaped from Bodmin Jail. A ten guinea reward was offered for their recapture but they were never found.

Local legend has it that they both died after getting lost on Bodmin moor. But we'll never know!


1827: A failed escape attempt was thwarted from Bodmin Jail on the 28th of April 1827, when inmate Charles Smith informed his jailers that remand prisoners John Mortlake and Samuel Williams had pledged to escape if they were found guilty of their crimes.

This inevitably happened and Mortlake attempted to fool the guards by filling his jacket with straw and leaving it in his bed as a diversion whilst they escaped through the laundry room. The convicts had converted 2 knives into saws and had somehow got hold of a sleeping draft to give to their cell mate to make him sleep whilst they escaped.

1828: Edmund Lane absconded.

1831: James Medland, Thomas Hore and John Burrows all went over the wall.


1832: A 20 man mass escape attempt was foiled at the prison.

1833: John Walters, Edward May, Samuel Langley & Thomas Jeffers went AWOL. All were recaptured on Bodmin Moor. Jeffers was later sent to Australia! Clever escape!

There are also reports of a woman escaping through the roof of a work room adjacent to the old original Bodmin Jail wall. It was much lower then. It seems she pushed off the slates from the inside, clambered up over the wall and at its lowest point, hung her legs over and dropped.

1846 A prisoner named Joseph P.... who was a debtor escaped on the 3rd of May but was later recaptured.

1855. 2 men awaiting trial also escaped and were never recaptured.


With a new prison Governor installed at the jail and better provision for security made, there were no more escapes until 1890 when a report to the Home Office suggested an escape had taken place through the negligence of an officer.


   In 1906, there was a report in a local newspaper that a Lunatic had escaped from Bodmin Jail which is corroborated in Lewis Hinds book, 'Days in Cornwall.'

Apparently the man got out, attacked a cyclist, stole his bike, set fire to a haystack as a diversion and rode on to St. Ives!








Joseph Martin

A crafty attempt to escape justice &  foil the judge at Truro!

Joseph Martin

Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward  Cornwall




Time line; December 10th 1833.

This was the day that one Joseph Martin, then aged 17 was committed to Bodmin jail by the  Mayor of Truro for stealing a silver watch from a jewelers shop in Truro.

 In his defence, the lad told a fascinating though not too convincing story to the mayor. 

 Young Joseph Martin was absolutely adamant that a cow, chasing a dog along the main street had smashed the jewellers window and hooked the watch up on one of  its horns pitching it into the gutter in fear.


“All I did he said was to pick it up” he said innocently to the court.


After receiving a harsh sentence despatching him to Bodmin jail for a spell of hard labour, the prisoner now very angry with his judge chirped up boldly that he felt it was grossly unfair that he should be punished for something a cow had done!


  “And what exactly was that,” asked a very miffed judge? 


“Why steal the watch from the jewelers window Sir” he replied.

“Guilty ,” sounded Judge Martin loudly banging his fist on the table . “The prisoner is an old offender!”



* Joseph Martin's miscreant career would continue to evolve on the streets of Truro and would one day see him off to the Colonies as a long term and rather long range guest of His Majesty.









THE LUCKY ONES - Death Penalty Remissions & 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.
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 Austrailia 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 Normington
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






Death Cell at Bodmin Jail.    

The Death Cell at Bodmin Jail.

The condemned cell at Bodmin Jail Cornwall




 Today, the old prison at Bodmin is a time warp bearing witness to untold fear and perpetual sorrow. 

Its crumbling cell blocks and buildings stand austere and unforgiving.




Courtyard Bodmin Jail


Photograph © Jackie Freeman Photography - St. Breward 





Behind rusting bars and broken glass hide the ghosts of a thousand hopeless souls with stories we'll never know.





Ghosts Bodmin jail







Post Script:



Leonard Henry Browett was  Bodmin's civil prison Governor at the end of the Victorian era

until its final closure as HM Prison Bodmin in 1916.



 On the 1st of June 1916, the final Prison Governor of Bodmin Jail, Leonard Browett, locked up the Bodmin Jail House for the very last time. He was fifty eight years of age.

 Before he left Bodmin jail, he had just one last thing to do.

 Bury Bodmin Jail's sinister past and put its ghosts to rest forever.


 Walking over the jail's courtyard from his office to the execution shed in the corner of the prison yard, he lifted the hanging room's trap door, tossed in the master keys to the ancient cells and the execution shed, turned and quietly walked away.



Bodmin Jail keys


The keys were found years later when the hanging pit was excavated by its new owners.









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.


Jackie Freeman Photography Bodmin


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




Jackie Freeman Photography Bodmin  


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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