Bodmin Rides Again

Drawing Challenge

intoBodmin have recently been awarded funding through National Lottery Heritage Fund for Bodmin Rides Again! The project involves a series of activities in Bodmin throughout 2020 to help support the Bodmin Riding and Heritage Festival. However, due to the Covid-19 outbreak we have had to re-think our plans!


As you may have already heard Bodmin Riding and Heritage Day has been put off until next year. The festival will now take place from 2nd to 4th July 2021

​However, the Bodmin Rides Again project will continue and hopes to engage the Bodmin community in heritage-based activities to give you an opportunity to learn more about Bodmin’s rich heritage and celebrate the town’s history.


When we are able to, we will be inviting members of the community to come together to help us create an impressive piece of community art in the form of a tapestry depicting Bodmin’s history and we will be collecting stories from the community about Bodmin Riding and Heritage festivals of the past through the oral history strand of work which will be complied in to podcasts and will be added to Kresen Kernow, the county’s state-of-the-art new archive centre in Redruth.

However until we can all come together for the main activities, we would like to invite you to get involved in our Lockdown Drawing Challenge…


Each week intoBodmin will release an interesting piece of Bodmin’s rich history dating back as early as the 6th century and what we would like you to do is draw it for us!


What do you think Bodmin looked like when it was mentioned in the Dooms Day book or during the Black Death of 1349 or The Cornish Rebellion of 1497 or when Bodmin Gaol was built…?

We want you to draw, design, paint, chalk, watercolour, or event potato print… however you want to create your piece of Bodmin’s History. We will release 10 pieces of Bodmin history on our website and across social media over the next few weeks, you can choose to interpret one, two or all 10, as few or as many as you like.


If you can, take a picture of them so we can share them on our social media, but keep the originals as we would like to collect them up and create a large piece of community art and if yours gets chosen it might even be turned in to a piece of the final Bodmin Rides Again Tapestry when its created by the community later this year!


Keep and eye out here or on social media.

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Bodmin Keep is over 160 years old and is the historic home of the Army in Cornwall. The former headquarters of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry houses the museum, with more than three hundred years of military history. The museum is housed in The Keep, one of Bodmin’s most important historic buildings which dates from 1859. Originally built as a depot (store and HQ) of the Cornish Militia and Volunteers.

Photo and info: Bodmin Keep

Notes collected from various sources and provided by Bodmin Town Museum.

(Copyright obtained for educational purposes only)



CHALLENGE ONE - Bodmin Riding and Heritage Festival

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Celebrations were a happy mixture of the religious and secular and in 1700 there are accounts of sports. On Sunday the townsfolk decorated with ribbons, went to church accompanied by members of various craft guilds bearing emblems of their trades. On their return Riding Ale and Church Ale were distributed from house to house. The Ale was prepared the previous October as a special brew. At each house the Crier sang out, "To the people of this house. A prosperous morning, long life, health and a merry Riding." The band played the special Riding tune and the householder was expected to sample the Ale in return for a donation towards the Riding expenses. The following Monday there was a Grand Procession where the main townsfolk and gentlemen took part including, it has been said, anyone who could find a mount. The Procession was divided into classes and each bore emblems of professions and crafts. In early times they first went to the Priory and received from the Prior a garland of flowers and a pole decorated with ribbons. They were led through the town by musicians. By the 1800s, sports began with wrestling for a gold-laced hat and continued with riding for prizes and the festivities ended with a Grand Ball for servants. The Riding, before its revival in 1974, was probably last held in 1825 when people met at the Turret Clock and marched or danced up Fore Street, calling at Inns on the way.

Notes collected from various sources and provided by

Bodmin Town Museum.

Bodmin Riding was old at the time of the first known record in Bodmin's parish Church rebuilding accounts of 1469. This festival was loaded with religious significance, although the origins are obscure. It took place on Sunday and Monday after July 7th, St Thomas a Becket's Day which may be another connection. Some say it is connected with the return of St Petroc's relics after they had been stolen from the Priory Church in 1177. With the large array of flowers and garlands there may be a link with Floralia of Roman times with the pagan goddess Flora, later deposed in favour of the Christian, St Thomas.

CHALLENGE TWO - Bodmin & Wenford Railway

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The original purpose of this railway was to take sand, used as a form of fertiliser spread on the fields, from the quay at Wadebridge to the farms up the valley. It was the idea of a local landowner, Sir William Molesworth, who employed an engineer called Roger Hopkins to build the railway. It was officially opened on 29th September 1834 when 300 tickets were issued to shareholders and invited guests. One special constable was placed in each carriage. An engine named the 'Camel' pulled the carriages. The Bodmin Road to Bodmin branch line, linking Bodmin with the main line began on 27th May 1887 and on 3rd September 1888 the branch was extended round the south of the town to Boscarne Junction on the Bodmin to Wadebridge section. It was not until 1st June 1895 that Wadebridge was reached by the North Cornwall line from Launceston, the final section to Padstow being opened on 27th March 1899.



The County Prison for Debtors was in Crockwell Street, at that time known as Prison Lane. The building still exists as the 'Hole in the Wall' public house. The name derives from the time when relatives and friends passed food through the 'Hole in the Wall' to the imprisoned debtors.


The County Bridewall was situated at Church Stile, "of all buildings and premises lying opposite to and against the south side of the church, abutting North on a street or road leading from Honey Street, otherwise Church Street, to the Priory, known as the Old Prison

The Mayor and Burgesses of Bodmin agreed to give up a 'piece or parcel of ground known by the name of Berrycombe for the site of the intended gaol'. The architect was a Mr Thomas Jones of Exeter, his foreman, James Chappie later became governor, a post he held for nearly fifty years. The gaol, which opened in 1779, was built under the supervision of John Call and incorporated many of the ideas suggested by John Howard. Between 1779 and 1855 there was an increase in the number of buildings and various other changes in the use of buildings. The original 1779 Georgian buildings had become a collection of randomly built additions so in the mid 1850's the 'old gaol' was abandoned and a new gaol was built after the Visiting Justices Report stated that a new County Gaol was needed.


The building of the new gaol was started in 1857 and was completed in 1860. It was built of stone mainly from the nearby Cuckoo Quarry, labour was not a problem as quarrying became another form of hard labour for the prisoners. From 1872 the county gaol had been used for the detention of navy and army personnel. The Naval Prison was separated from the gaol and was opened in April 1887

CHALLENGE FOUR - The Doomsday Book


The Doomsday book was a manuscript record of the "Great Survey" of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror. It was written in Medieval Latin. Bodmin was featured in the Domesday Book. At the time Bodmin had a recorded population of 79 households in 1086, putting it in the largest 20% of settlements recorded in Domesday.

Other notable things in Bodmin in Norman times

  • Domesday Book Bodmin mentioned only community in Cornwall to have market.

  • New Church built probably previous site — font. Augustinian canons, part of a group of buildings

  • Two stories of Theft of St Petroc's Bones and Casket — 1176 and 1994

  • 1198 Stannary Report named Bodmin as Cornwall's first recorded tin coinage town-weighed , tested and stamped.

  • Town Wall appears to have separated town from country. Several streets Castle Street first recorded in 1313, Reynstrete in 1400, Fore Street and Honey Street 1470. 2 watermills

  • Grey Friars of the Order of St Francis founded Priory 1239/ 1260 on site of present Shire Hall. Its Great Hall at one stage was 150ft long and had a splendid east window and hammerbeam roof. (Later became ball room, grammar school, and court).

  • Bodmin significant religious centre and market town. Scarlet's Well, named after Bodmin MP had a reputation for healing.

  • During 13th century a hospital for lepers founded at St Lawrence, established by monks from Priory, later Friars shared care. Revenue came from land, endowments, alms and tolls paid at St Lawrence Fair.

  • Black Death 1349 arrived in Bodmin — travelling traders of satins and velvet taken from plague victims to unsuspecting townspeople. 1,500 died including Prior and all but two canons.

  • Chantry of St Thomas a Becket dedicated in 1377. Bodmin's oldest surviving building, once a school where instruction was given by monks and later a grammar school.


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From early 1943 to late 1944 Bodmin hosted over 2000 soldiers from the USA. They were billeted in the town and set up a large camp and training area on the Beacon. Here they trained and prepared both themselves and their equipment for the invasion of Europe. Parts of the Beacon were used as a storage depot and some of the surrounding fields were given over to tented accommodation. In 1940 the Royal Observer Corps built an observation post on the Beacon.


Those killed in the Bombing of Bodmin Friday 7th August 1942. At the Sargeant House in Mill Street: Edith Sargeant age 76 Inez Sargeant age 46, employee of St Lawrence's Hospital, daughter. Hetty Couch age 53, daughter Vida May age 37, daughter Doris May, daughter of Vida Reg Sargeant age 32, Royal Signals, home on leave Irene Sargeant, wife of Reg Frank Sargeant age 1 year, son of Reg and Irene At the Primrose Dairy in Mill Street: Edgar James Tippett age 16 years, employee of the Dairy



The Cornish Rebellion in 1497 was against the rising of taxes by King Henry VII to support the war against Scotland. 10,000 men from Cornwall marched to London. Among the rebels was Lawyer and MP for Bodmin in 1492, Thomas Flamank.

Painting by Donald MacLeod

CHALLENGE SEVEN - St Petroc’s bones and casket

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The St Petroc's Church casket is said to contain the bones of Saint Petroc himself. The bones and casket were stolen in 1176 and remains were returned in 1177. The casket was lost for centuries and then returned in 1957. However, they were stolen again in 1994 and later both returned to the church.

CHALLENGE EIGHT - Scarlett's Well

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Of all the Bodmin holy wells, Scarletts Well was the most renowned. The Well possibly belonged to the Priory of Bodiniel and was named after the prominent Scarlett Family. Rumours spread throughout the land concerning the healing properties of the well, so people flocked in huge numbers to Bodmin.

CHALLENGE NINE - a Belling Clock

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Cornwall in the 18th and 19th centuries possessed many clockmakers. Indeed, the 1831 Census records 83 watch and clockmakers at work in the county. Amongst these, one of the most well known, was Belling of Bodmin. The clock was made by John Belling at Bodmin in 1753 and he often used Cornish tin to decorate his clocks. The Bellings worked between 1706 and 1850.


Photo attached is by Bernie Pettersen