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News Archive > General > Oi, back in line! Jail finally reopens doors to visitors

Oi, back in line! Jail finally reopens doors to visitors

By Jacob Double 14th October 2020

Oi, back in line! Jail finally reopens doors to visitors
The Voice was given an exclusive - and spooky - tour of Bodmin Jail, which is said to be the UKís most haunted building, from resident clairvoyant and paranormal manager, Kirsten Honey, pictured above

Bodmin Jail’s visitor numbers in the first week since reopening have “exceeded expectations”, according to the attraction’s boss.

The site closed its doors last December when renovation work began on the attraction’s brand new experience, the ‘Dark Walk’.

However, with the covid-19 pandemic disrupting progress on the £8.5 million project, the May opening deadline came and went - as did the peak summer season, which would usually see thousands of visitors make the trip to what has been described as the UK’s most haunted building.

But speaking to the Voice following the first full week of the iconic building being open this year, general manager Martin Lyall said it was an encouraging start with footfall better than their most optimistic predictions.

“It has gone extremely well,” he said. “We preceeded the official opening on the October 1 with invites for locals in the PL31 postcode as they are closest to the jail as a bit of a thank you and also to soft open the attraction.

“Without exception the feedback has been very positive.” The locals-only days were then followed up by two days of visits from VIPs from the tourism industry, including the jail’s local suppliers and people in ‘circles of influence’.

“We had a lot of positive feedback from that too - I think phrases like ‘it surpasses our expectations’ were the type of comments we were receiving,” continued Lyll.

“We then opened properly on October 1 and we opened to numbers ahead of our expectations.

“Obviously we were opening in unusual times with covid-19 so we had revisit our predictions, but we are very pleased with the numbers.”

The new ‘Dark Walk’ exhibition is the biggest attraction opening in the South West this year and features state-of-the-art technology and theatrical effects - including cutting-edge holography.

The tour starts with a walk through a recreated mine, where visitors are transported back to the time when Cornish miners and smugglers were risking their lives daily.

Each room has been designed to look like Bodmin Moor, the treacherous coast, a Cornish village and even an old courtroom where visitors attend the trials of criminals who were actually hanged at the jail.

Ghostly voices from Cornwall’s murky past appear including wardens, highway robbers and a baby killer.

The cinematic visual experience also tells the stories of the Beast of Bodmin, criminals hiding on Bodmin Moor and ship wreckers.

Following the Dark Walk, visitors enter the Naval wing and discover the grimy cells where criminals were held captive in the 18th and 19th centuries.

There they discover the stories of young mothers hanged for murdering their own babies, arsonists and even child criminals.

Next is the administration block which gives an insight into the background of the people who served, worked and lived at Bodmin Jail and even the diet given to prisoners.

Visitors can also see the UK's only working execution pit, where at least 55 prisoners lost their lives in front of crowds of up to 25,000 people.

By Jacob Double 14th October 2020

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