Locked Up in Bodmin Jail!
This week a group of us travelled north for our annual meet-up with Camelford WI. They hosted us this time and we met first at a pub for a welcome cup of coffee and a catch-up. We’ve been twinning with Camelford WI for so long now that we’re all old friends, and there were hugs all around when we arrived.
After coffee, some walked and some drove to Bodmin Jail from the pub. Those of us who walked were treated to a gorgeous mile-long stroll along the sun-dappled Camel Trail. We were so preoccupied with chatting that we often had to hurry to move out of the way of cyclists!
When we arrived at Bodmin Jail, we sat down to lunch in a private room in what had been the old administrative building of the jail. The chatter quickly fell silent when the waitresses appeared with our food!
After lunch, we were given a tour of the jail by Chris, one of the volunteer guides. He was so informative and had so much passion for the history of the jail that we could have listened to him for hours. Our tour took us through cells and inmate punishment areas. We learned about several important cases of Bodmin inmates, notably the Lightfoot brothers who were put to death for the murder of a well-respected local man. Thousands of people came to watch their execution in 1840.
We were all struck by the tragic stories of many inmates, some of whom were executed, for whom we’d now, in 2017, have more compassion. A man put to death for stealing milk was likely only trying to feed his family. And a young woman who killed her newborn baby could very well have been suffering from what we now know as postnatal depression.
Our tour ended at the execution pit, a particularly grim spot, where we learned how the rope lengths were perfectly calibrated to do their job, depending on the weight of the person to be executed. This is the only working execution pit in the UK!
If you haven’t been to Bodmin Jail, we recommend a visit very soon. The jail was recently purchased and part of it will be turned into a hotel. The jail will still remain open to the public, but our guide Chris told us that some of the areas we saw will no longer be able to be seen in the future.
We had a nice chat with the Camelford ladies about where they’d like to go when we host them in 2018, so stay tuned for more details! (Report and photos by Helen)