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Bodmin, Cornwall

Historical Description

Bodmin, a municipal borough and a market and union town, the capital of Cornwall. It has a station on the L. & S.W.R., 272 miles from London. There is also a branch of the G.W.R. from Bodmin Road to Bodmin. The town stands in a hollow between two hills near the centre of the county. A hermitage of St Guron stood here before the 6th century, and gave place about 518 to a monastic cell founded by St Petroc. This is thought by some, but erroneously, to have become the first seat of the bishopric of Cornwall; it was occupied by old British or Benedictine monks till 926, and gave place then to a Benedictine priory, founded by King Athelstan. This was destroyed by Danish pirates in 981, yet continued to be a centre of monks till about 1120, and was then succeeded by an Augustinian monastery, founded by one Algar; and this passed at the dissolution to Thomas Sternhold, one of the translators of the Psalms. A Grey friary, founded by John of London, a merchant, and augmented by Edmund, Earl of Cornwall, was given at the dissolution to William Abbot, and passed about twenty years after to the corporation. Part of the refectory was afterwards used as the town hall. A lazar-house was founded at an early period in the north-western vicinity; refounded and incorporated by Queen Elizabeth, and endowed with property yielding £140 a year, which came to be transferred to the infirmary at Truro; and some remains of the building, including several pointed arches, were not long ago standing. No fewer than thirteen churches or free chapels were at one time in the town and its environs, and one of these, an ivy-clad structure, called the Chapel of St Thomas, still adjoins the chancel of the parish church, while a tower which belonged to another, called the Chapel of the Holy Cross, stands on a hill about½ a mile to the N. The town was so populous in 1351 as to lose 1500 persons in that year by pestilence; and it was one of the places which had authority to stamp tin, but it lost that privilege in 1347. It owed its consequence mainly to the number and influence of its ecclesiastics; and it sank suddenly at the Reformation into much decay; but it revived during the last century, was then made the seat of the assizes for the county, and has since enjoyed some prosperity as a provincial metropolis. Perkin Warbeck commenced his rebellion here, preparatory to his attack on Exeter; the Cornish and Devonshire men also commenced their insurrection here in the time of Edward VI.; and Fairfax took the town.

Bodmin consists chiefly of one long street, running E and W, and a good view of it is got from Beacon-hill to the S. The county-hall contains two handsome court-houses, grand jury-room, indictment-room, and other offices. The mayoralty-house, with judges' lodging, was built in 1838. The county jail was rebuilt in 1859, at a cost of £40,000, and has capacity for 155 male and 42 female prisoners. The county lunatic asylum, as also the jail, stands in the outskirts of the town. The market-house was opened in 1840, and is commodious. Handsome public rooms were erected in 1892. The basement is used as a drill hall. The parish church is the largest in Cornwall, and measures 151 feet by 63. It was, save the tower and part of the chancel, rebuilt in the Perpendicular style in 1472; has a square tower, formerly surrounded by a lofty spire, which fell by lightning in 1699; and contains a Norman font, some curiously carved old oak seats, and a large sculptured monument of Thomas Vyvyan, a prior who died in 1533. The church was restored at intervals from 1867 to 1886. There are chapels for Wesleyans, Bible Christians, and Lady Huntingdon's Connexion. The town has a head post office, a bank, a literary institution, and two chief inns. The links of the Eoyal Cornwall Golf Club are situated on the racecourse, about 2 miles from the town. Markets are held on Wednesday and Saturday, and fairs on 25 January, the Saturday before Palm Sunday, the Tuesday before Whit-Sunday, 6 July, and 6 Dec. Scarlet's Well is a fine spring or well about a mile west from the town, remarkable for its purity and abundance. The town was incorporated by Edward III., and it sent two members to parliament from the time of Edward I. till 1867, but was reduced by the Act of that year to the right of sending only one. Under the Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885, it was disfranchised as a parliamentary borough, and merged in the south-eastern division of the county. It is governed by a mayor, 4 aldermen, and 12 councillors, and is the seat of all the assizes and quarter sessions for the county and of county courts. Bodmin has given the title of Viscount to the Roberts or Robartes family, Barons Roberts of Truro and Earls of Radnor, all which titles became extinct in 1764, but in 1765 the new peerage of Earl Radnor, and in 1869 that of Lord Robartes, were created. Area of municipal borough, 2797 acres; population, 5151. The civil parish comprises 3417 acres; population, 328; of the ecclesiastical parish (St Petroc), 5479. Bodmin Priory, on the site of the ancient monastery, passed from Thomas Sternhold to successively the Pescodes, the Rashleighs, the Penningtons, and the Gilberts. A trigo-nometrical station, 1 mile E of the town, is 645 feet high. A monument to the late General Gilbert, 144 feet high, is on the Beacon to the S. The living is a vicarage, with Nanstallon, in the diocese of Truro; net value, £250 with residence.

Bodmin Parliamentary Division of Cornwall was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 52,288. The division includes the following:-West Hundred- Boconnoc, Broadoak, Cardinham, Cleer (St), Duloe, Keyne (St.), Lanreath, Lansallos, Lanteglos-by-Fowey, Liskeard Parish, Looe (East), Looe (West), Martin's (St), Menheniot, Morval, Neot (St), Pelynt, Pinnock (St), Talland, Veep (St), Warleggan, Winnow (St); East South-Antony, Botus Fleming, German's (St), John's (St), Landrake and St Erney, Landulph, Maker, Rame, Saltash, Sheviouk, St Stephen's-by-Saltash; Powder Tywardreath (part of)-Fowey, Lanhydrock, Lanlivery, Lostwithiel, Luxulian, Sampson's (St), Tywardreath; Trigg (part of)-Bodmin parish, Helland, Lanivet; Liskeard, municipal borough; Bodmin, municipal borough.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyCornwall 
Ecclesiastical parishBodmin St. Petrock 
Poor Law unionBodmin 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Bodmin from the following:


Online maps of Bodmin are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Cornwall papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

We have a copy of The Visitations of Cornwall, by Lieut.-Col. J.L. Vivian online.

RegionSouth West
Postal districtPL31
Post TownBodmin