The Rajah Quilt

The Rajah Quilt

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bodmin Jail

It was a cold, wet day in June 2012, when we visited the Bodmin Jail, in Cornwall.  This is the prison where Charles Blight was held in 1834, after his conviction for wounding a sheep.  The Jail is now a private tourist operation, and well worth a visit. The current owners saved the site from a derilect state in 2004, and are continually restoring the buildings. It has an excellent restaurant, and some great books on the history of the jail. They concentrate on the notorious local prisoners convicted for murder, and sentenced to execution.  The hanging of brothers James and William Lightfoot on 13th April 1840 attracted a crowd of 25,000 plus some 1,100 passengers on a train, which halted below the prison so that those on board could see the execution.  One of the main attractions of Bodmin Jail today is a daily re-enactment of a hanging at the restored gallows. 

The original Bodmin Prison was built in in the reign of George III, in 1779. Based on the reforms of the 1778 Act of Parliament, the site was chosen for its clean air and pure water, which would help in reducing disease.   Three prison areas were designed to separate minor misdemeanants, felons (major crimes) and debtors, as well as segregating men and women.  Bodmin was also one of the first jails with prisoners kept in individual cells. 
The entire prison was rebuilt in the 1850's after being declared unfit for purpose, due to changes in legislation which required total segregation of remand prisoners, convicted prisoners, felons, misdemeanants, debtors, vagrants and of course, men from women. This resulted in over 20 different classes of prisoners; each group had to be housed in separate sleeping areas and workshops.  A new 220-cell prison was built from the late 1850's - it is these buildings that remain on the site.

Notice on the wall inside the restored prison, naming Charles Blight amongst prisoners transferred to London prior to their transportation. At the time when Charles Blight was in Bodmin Jail, it was a different building to the one that is currently on the site.

 Remains of the Naval Prison from 1887.