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1779 oil painting of Sir John Call with Bodmin Jail in the background, artist unknown

Bodmin Jail (alternatively Bodmin Gaol) is a tourist attraction and former prison situated in Bodmin, on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. Now partially in ruins, the building displays small exhibits of offenders imprisoned in Bodmin and offers a grim view into the criminal culture of Cornwall in days gone by. The exhibits are not lavish and are fairly basic in design, showcasing gory mannequins accompanied with plaques, describing the offence committed by particular persons and their sentence, in their respective cells. Because of the nature of Bodmin Gaol, it has been likened to such attractions as The London Dungeon.



Bodmin Gaol was designed by Sir John Call[1] and built in 1779 by prisoners of war, and was operational for 150 years, in which it saw over 50 public hangings. It was the first British prison to hold prisoners in separate cells (though often up to 10 at a time) rather than communally.

The Debtors Act of 1869 abolished imprisonment for debt so the prison had spare space that was taken over by the Admiralty for naval prisoners. Eventually, the naval prison occupied an entire wing of the building, before it was closed in 1922.

During World War I the prison was deemed worthy to hold some of Britain's priceless national treasures including the Domesday Book and the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom. The first hanging was apparently in 1785, but the finishing date of the Gaol was in 1788. Executioners were paid about £10 a hanging. The last person to be hanged was in 1909, subsequent executions took place in Exeter Prison.

The jail closed in 1927.

Most haunted

Series 6, Episode 1 of Most Haunted, a British made reality TV show, saw the crew attempt their paranormal activities at the Gaol with presenter, Yvette Fielding and psychic, Derek Acorah. Unsuccessful with many attempts, the team did make contact with many light and sound entities, whilst Acorah claims to have been possessed by a bothered spirit named Kreed Kafer, a South African who has since been untraceable. It has since come to light that "Kreed Kafer" was a fictional character, who was created purely by parapsychologist and crew member Ciarán O'Keeffe, to test Derek Acorah and his abilities.[2] The name was created because it was an anagram of the phrase 'Derek Faker'.[3]


  1. ^ D. L. Prior, ‘Call, Sir John, first baronet (1732–1801)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008 accessed 18 Sept 2008
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External links

Coordinates: 50°28′29.27″N 04°43′41.13″W / 50.4747972°N 4.7280917°W / 50.4747972; -4.7280917



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