The Inspector calls at the former jail in Cornwall that’s had a ‘sensational’ £60m makeover to become a swanky hotel, with ‘inmates’ housed in rooms formed from knocked-through cells
- You arrive in the exercise yard – in which previous residents concluded their stay on a hangman’s rope
- The reception area, the whole floor of one cell block, is striking, lit by the original full-length skylight
- ‘I sleep peacefully despite each room carrying a photo of an unluckier historic occupant,’ writes the Inspector
In the days of the Poldarks, Bodmin — Cornwall’s county town — was a destination. The residences of the Georgian mine-owners were arranged in handsome streets and squares; there was a castle, a corn exchange and an assizes. And for when the Cornish were being more than usually truculent, there was a vast jail complex.
It had 74 ft granite walls with gargoyles and two massive cell wings.
When the mines closed and the big money fled to the coast, the now Grade II-listed jail became a white elephant. But its new owner — Russian millionaire Timur Gorman — saw things differently. Bodmin Jail Hotel’s £60 million architectural transformation is sensational.
Bodmin’s Grade II-listed jail has had a ‘sensational’ £60 million makeover to become a swanky hotel
Today’s Bodmin jail inmates occupy three knocked-through cells, rather than one
An underfloor-heated bathroom replaces the slopping-out pail and communal shower
You arrive in the exercise yard (in which previous residents concluded their stay on the end of a hangman’s rope) to find that the two cell blocks have been connected by sleek modern inserts, containing the lift shafts.
The reception area, the whole floor of one cell block, is simple and striking, lit by the original full-length skylight.
Around it, on two upper walkways, are the 70 guest rooms. You’ll know the layout from TV’s Porridge.
Bodmin Jail Hotel is owned by Russian millionaire Timur Gorman, who saw an opportunity to turn a white elephant into something special
The reception area, the whole floor of one cell block, is simple and striking, says the Inspector, lit by the original full-length skylight
Today’s inmates occupy three knocked-through cells, rather than one, and an underfloor-heated bathroom replaces the slopping-out pail and communal shower.
The thickness of the walls and the high viewless windows looking up at ‘the little tent of blue that some men call the sky’ — as Oscar Wilde put it — provokes a humorous unease.
To reach the restaurant you pass the bar. Its Cornish mixologist also holds forth on the ghosts who haunt the building and I bet his customers lap it up, as they do the à la carte menu in the adjacent former chapel.
The Inspector says that the Cornish mixologist at Bodmin Jail Hotel ‘holds forth on the ghosts who haunt the building’
To the people of neglected Bodmin, the hotel must seem like a lifeboat. I drink the local Camel Valley hock, rightly celebrated and of a standard, and price, to rival the French and German vineyards. And the bouillabaisse is utterly delicious.
I sleep peacefully, despite each room carrying a photograph of an unluckier historic occupant of the same room.
On leaving, I still can’t work out at whom the hotel is aimed, but if the jail attraction takes off, then the coach parties may follow. And Bodmin could become a destination once more.
Bodmin Jail Hotel, Scarlett’s Well Road, Bodmin, Cornwall, PL31 2PL. Doubles from £236. For more information call 01208 822 822 or visit bodminjailhotel.com.