Bodmin

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Bodmin (Cornish: Bosvenegh) is a civil parish and major town in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. It is situated in the centre of the county southwest of Bodmin Moor.

The extent of the civil parish corresponds fairly closely to that of the town so is mostly urban in character. It is bordered to the east by Cardinham parish, to the southeast by Lanhydrock parish, to the southwest and west by Lanivet parish, and to the north by Helland parish.

Bodmin has a population of 12,778 (2001 census). It was formerly the county town of Cornwall until the Crown Courts moved to Truro which is also the administrative centre (before 1835 the county town was Launceston). Bodmin was in the administrative North Cornwall District until local government reorganisation in 2009 abolished the District.

Bodmin Town Council is made up of 16 councillors who are elected to serve a term of four years. Each year, the Council elects one of their number as Mayor to serve as the town’s civic leader and to chair council meetings.

Bodmin lies in the centre of Cornwall, south-west of Bodmin Moor. It has been suggested that the town’s name comes from an archaic word in the Cornish “bod” (meaning a dwelling; the later word is “bos”) and a contraction of “menegh” (monks). It may however refer to an earlier monastic settlement instituted by St. Guron, which St. Petroc took as his site. Guron is said to have departed to St Goran on the arrival of Petroc.

St. Petroc founded a monastery in Bodmin in the sixth century and gave the town its alternative name of Petrockstow. The monastery was deprived of some of its lands at the Norman Conquest but at the time of Domesday still held 18 manors, including Bodmin, Padstow and Rialton. Bodmin is one of the oldest towns in Cornwall, and the only large Cornish settlement recorded in the Domesday Book of the late 11th century. In the 15th century the Norman church of St Petroc was largely rebuilt and stands as one of the largest churches in Cornwall (the largest after the cathedral at Truro). Also built at that time was an abbey of canons regular, now mostly ruined. For most of Bodmin’s history, the tin industry was a mainstay of the economy.

An inscription on a stone built into the wall of a summer house in Lancarffe furnishes proof of a settlement in Bodmin in the early Middle Ages. It is a memorial to one “Duno[.]atus son of Me[.]cagnus” and has been dated from the sixth to eighth centuries.

The Black Death killed half of Bodmin’s population in the mid 14th century (1500 people).

Bodmin was the centre of three Cornish uprisings. The first was the Cornish Rebellion of 1497 when a Cornish army, led by Michael An Gof, a blacksmith from St. Keverne. and Thomas Flamank, a lawyer from Bodmin, marched to Blackheath in London where they were eventually defeated by 10,000 men of the King’s army under Baron Daubeny. Then, in the Autumn of 1497, Perkin Warbeck tried to usurp the throne from Henry VII. Warbeck was proclaimed King Richard IV in Bodmin but Henry had little difficulty crushing the uprising. Finally, in 1549, Cornishmen rose once again in rebellion when the staunchly Protestant Edward VI tried to impose a new Prayer Book. Cornish people were still strongly attached to the Catholic religion and again a Cornish army was formed in Bodmin which marched across the border to lay siege to Exeter in Devon. This became known as the Prayer Book Rebellion. Proposals to translate the Prayer Book into Cornish were suppressed and in total 4,000 people were killed in the rebellion.

The existing church building is dated 1469-72 and was until the building of Truro Cathedral the largest church in Cornwall. The tower which remains from the original Norman church and stands on the north side of the church (the upper part is 15th century) was, until the loss of its spire in 1699, 150 ft high. The building underwent two Victorian restorations and another in 1930. It is now listed Grade I. There are a number of interesting monuments, most notably that of Prior Vivian which was formerly in the Priory Church (Thomas Vivian’s effigy lying on a chest: black Catacleuse stone and grey marble). The font of a type common in Cornwall is of the twelfth century: large and finely carved.

The Chapel of St Thomas Becket is a ruin of a 14th century building in Bodmin churchyard. The holy well of St Guron is a small stone building at the churchyard gate. The Berry Tower is all that remains of the former church of the Holy Rood and there are even fewer remains from the substantial Franciscan Friary established ca. 1240: a gateway in Fore Street and two pillars elsewhere in the town. The Roman Catholic Abbey of St Mary and St Petroc, formerly belonging to the Canons Regular of the Lateran was built in 1965 next to the already existing seminary. The Roman Catholic parish of Bodmin includes a large area of North Cornwall and there are churches also at Wadebridge, Padstow and Tintagel. In 1881 the Roman Catholic mass was celebrated in Bodmin for the first time since 1539. A church was planned in the 1930s but delayed by World War II: the Church of St Mary and St Petroc was eventually consecrated in 1965: it was built next to the already existing seminary. There are also five other churches in Bodmin, including a Methodist church.

Bodmin Gaol, operational for over 150 years but now a semi-ruin, was built in the late 18th century, and was the first British prison to hold prisoners in separate cells (though often up to 10 at a time) rather than communally. Over fifty prisoners condemned at the Bodmin Assize Court were hanged at the prison. It was also used for temporarily holding prisoners sentenced to transportation, awaiting transfer to the prison hulks lying in the highest navigable reaches of the River Fowey. Also, during World War I the prison held some of Britain’s priceless national treasures including the Domesday Book, the ring and the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom.

Other buildings of interest include the former Shire Hall, now a tourist information centre, and the Regimental Barracks of the now defunct Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, now a regimental museum. It includes the history of the regiment from 1702, plus a military library. The original barracks house the regimental museum and it was founded in 1925. There is a fine collection of small arms and machine guns, plus maps, uniforms and paintings on display.

Bodmin County Lunatic Asylum was designed by John Foulston and afterwards George Wightwick. William Robert Hicks the humorist was domestic superintendent in the mid-19th century.

There is a sizeable Masonic Hall in St Nicholas Street, which is home to no less than seven Masonic bodies (foundation dates in brackets).

  • One & All Lodge No. 330 (8 March 1810);
  • Beacon Lodge No. 9425 (15 February 1991);
  • Saint Petrock Chapter No. 330 (7 November 1877);
  • St Nicholas Lodge of Mark Master Masons No. 1188 (1 December 1954);
  • St Nicholas Lodge of Royal Ark Mariners No. 1188 (1 February 1979);
  • Conclave of Light of the Masonic & Military Order of the Red Cross of Constantine No. 498 (23 April 2009)
  • Bodiniel Quarry Assemblage of the Worshipful Society of Free Masons (15 October 1988)

The Bodmin Beacon Local Nature Reserve is the hill overlooking the town. The reserve has 83 acres (33.6 ha) of public land and at its highest point it reaches 162 metres with the distinctive landmark at the summit. The 44-metre tall monument to Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert was built in 1857 by the townspeople of Bodmin to honour the soldier’s life and work in India.

Bodmin Parkway railway station is served by main line trains and is situated on the Cornish Main Line about 3½ miles (5½ km) south-east from the town centre. A heritage railway, the Bodmin and Wenford Railway, runs from Bodmin Parkway station via Bodmin General railway station to Boscarne Junction where there is access to the Camel Trail. The bus link to Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow starts from outside the main entrance of Bodmin Parkway.

W. H. Pascoe’s 1979 A Cornish Armory gives the arms of the priory and the monastery and the seal of the borough.

  • Seal – a king enthroned; legend: Sigill comune burgensium bodmine
  • Priory – Azure three salmon naiant in pale Argent
  • Monastery – Or on a chevron Azure between three lion’s heads Purpure three annulets Or

On Halgaver Moor (Goats’ Moor) near Bodmin there was once an annual carnival in July which was on one occasion attended by King Charles II.

Bodmin Riding is a traditional annual ceremony.

In 1865–66 William Robert Hicks was mayor of Bodmin, when he revived the custom of Beating the bounds of the town. He was — according to the Dictionary of National Biography — a very good man of business. This still takes place more or less every five years and concludes with a game of Cornish hurling. Hurling survives as a traditional part of beating the bounds at Bodmin, commencing at the close of the ‘Beat’. The game is organised by the Rotary club of Bodmin and was last played in 2010. The game is started by the Mayor of Bodmin by throwing a silver ball into a body of water known as the “Salting Pool”. There are no teams and the hurl follows a set route. The aim is to carry the ball from the “Salting Pool” via the old A30, along Callywith Road, then through Castle Street, Church Square and Honey Street to finish at the Turret Clock in Fore Street. The participant carrying the ball when it reaches the turret clock will receive a £10 reward from the mayor. The next occurrence of the Bodmin Hurl will be following the next beating of the bounds, which is unlikely to take place until 2015.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.

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