Cornwall, Day 2

Well rested, I awoke to the smell of breakfast being cooked, oh lordy did it smell good! It tasted gooder. Once breakfasted we headed off to the town of Bodmin to visit the jail. This is not a working jail, I don’t think you can just turn up and wander round a working jail, unless that’s your job.

WARNING: The next bit is a little bit educational!

Bodmin Gaol was designed by Sir John Call 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 individual cells.

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 of holding 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 jail was in 1788. Executioners were paid about £10 a hanging. The last person to be hanged was in 1909.

The jail closed in 1927. Since that date, there has been no prison within the county of Cornwall.

Much of the jail remains in ruins, and presents a forbidding aspect when seen from a distance. Some parts have been refurbished and these now form a tourist attraction with exhibitions telling of the history of the jail and of offenders imprisoned there.

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.

The jail was actually a very interesting, if somewhat macabre, place. I think we were both pleasantly surprised by it.

With our visit to Bodmin done we set of for Falmouth and Pendennis castle.

Warning! More education:

Pendennis Castle dominates a high rocky headland on the south side of the Fal estuary, overlooking the English Channel close to where it joins the Atlantic Ocean, historically a vital sea route. The castle defences are a rich amalgam from an artillery fortress operating throughout the period 1539–1956, concentrated both inside Elizabethan ramparts and on the top and slopes of the headland around it.

The centrepiece of Pendennis is a circular four-storey tower which had a storeroom and kitchen in the basement, guns on two enclosed floors and an open roof with a lookout turret. Around the tower, an open circular platform also supported guns. Probably added during or very shortly after the initial construction, it made the ground floor of the tower suitable only for accommodation.

Most of the pentagonal perimeter of the Elizabethan fort survives, including five of the original six bastions and a steep rampart, faced in stone and dropping to a dry ditch, now partly infilled. The original plain entrance was given an imposing classical pediment in about 1700. Just inside are the twin Guard Barracks, solid Ordnance Office buildings in dressed granite of about 1700 and among the earliest barracks surviving in Britain. The northern barrack contains a guard room and cells (for unruly soldiers) of the early 20th century.

Inside the fortress the Elizabethan parapet was replaced in the 1730s. Parts of this later structure survive, for example at Nine-Gun Battery with its stone platforms, embrasures and smooth-bore guns providing a powerful image of a massed battery of the period.

East Bastion and Carrick Mount Bastion contain concrete emplacements inserted in 1902/3 for four 12-pounder guns to counter torpedo boats. In East Bastion, steps lead to underground magazines and a war shelter, converted in 1941 as a Battery Plotting Room from which all the guns of the estuary could be controlled.

Most of the pentagonal perimeter of the Elizabethan fort survives, including five of the original six bastions and a steep rampart, faced in stone and dropping to a dry ditch, now partly infilled. The original plain entrance was given an imposing classical pediment in about 1700.

Just inside are the twin Guard Barracks, solid Ordnance Office buildings in dressed granite of about 1700 and among the earliest barracks surviving in Britain. The northern barrack contains a guard room and cells (for unruly soldiers) of the early 20th century.

Inside the fortress the Elizabethan parapet was replaced in the 1730s. Parts of this later structure survive, for example at Nine-Gun Battery with its stone platforms, embrasures and smooth-bore guns providing a powerful image of a massed battery of the period.

East Bastion and Carrick Mount Bastion contain concrete emplacements inserted in 1902/3 for four 12-pounder guns to counter torpedo boats. In East Bastion, steps lead to underground magazines and a war shelter, converted in 1941 as a Battery Plotting Room from which all the guns of the estuary could be controlled.

To the north of the parade ground a plain brick storehouse was built between 1793 and 1811, one of three holding supplies for British troops fighting Napoleonic forces in Spain and Portugal. Alongside is the somewhat sombre barracks, erected 1900–1902 to house the 140 or so soldiers of the 105th Regiment of the Royal Garrison Artillery, and of the same period are bungalows on each side of the Guard Barracks, for senior non-commissioned officers.

Buildings at the south end include half of a much-altered shed built in 1805 for a field train of mobile guns, stored until needed in action. But this end of the fortress is dominated by gun positions and ancillary buildings begun in the late 19th century.

These include One-Gun Battery, for a heavy 6-inch gun. On firing, the gun barrel recoiled on pivoting steel arms, ‘disappearing’ into the gun pit through a steel shield under which the gunners reloaded in safety. The gun position is connected to its underground magazine, and nearby under its protective earth mound, a war shelter accommodated the gun crew.

The Battery Observation Post was built in the Second World War to control the 6-inch guns of Half-Moon Battery and has been restored to its wartime appearance. The battery itself, reached via a tunnel under the Elizabethan rampart, retains underground magazines and a war shelter of 1895, built for two more 6-inch ‘disappearing’ guns.

The current emplacements at Half-Moon Battery incorporate changes of 1909 and particularly of the Second World War, including camouflaged concrete gun houses that gave protection from aircraft, added in 1941. The guns on display are similar to those installed in 1943.

The castle was impressive and we had an exclusive tour of the main castle, exclusive because no other bugger turned up for the tour, which was well worth doing.

We also did the tour of Half Moon battery, given the history of the battery I did find myself in very familiar surroundings, Half Moon battery isn’t too dissimilar to St Martens battery in Dover.

If you ever get the chance a visit to Pendennis is thoroughly recommended.

We headed home, well home being the caravan, with plans of a walk to a nearby Table Table establishment for dinner and a couple of pints. Word of advice, DO NOT double stack the double stack steak burger, the meat sweats will kill you. Although I was lucky enough to hear a waiter being asked which is better, the standard beef burger or the steak burger? The reply was perfect, “I’m vegetarian” oh how we laughed.

We walked back to the caravan in the dark, and the mist, well, fog, are you familiar with Cornish fog? It’s so thick you can cut chunks of it off and chew it and it’s full of zombies, probably!

Luckily we managed to find our way back without incident and no zombies, although there was some rustling in the roadside bushes.

This ended day 2

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Posted on May 20, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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