Sarner is proud to present its latest pioneering project and UK’s largest leisure development south of Bristol in a decade. Sarner has transformed one of Cornwall’s leading historical sites – the Bodmin Jail - into a world-class leisure destination. Featuring the brand new ‘Dark Walk’, the first of its kind in Cornwall, and an immersive exhibition within the listed historic jail building, the new attraction uses sensational scenic sets, special effects, films and projections and the latest immersive technology to transport visitors back to Cornwall’s murky past, enabling a first-hand experience of the penal life - and death - of prison’s inmates in the 18th & 19th centuries.

Location
Bodmin, Cornwall, UK
Services
- Story, Research & Interpretation - Opportunity Assessment - Market and Competitor Research - Visitor Analysis - Business Plan Development - Branding & Marketing - Concept Design & Visualisation - Architectural & MEP Coordination - Masterplanning - Scheme & Detailed Design - Project Engineering & Technical Design - Interior Design, Set and Staging Design - Lighting, Audio, Video, Network Design - Writing & Content Development - Media & Film Production - Audiovisual & Interactive Technologies - Graphics - Lighting - Theming - Show Control Specification - Show Programming - Technical Installation & Commissioning - Tender Administration - Art Direction - Installation Supervision - Special effects, 4D Vibration, Movement & Smell - Construction & Installation - Support & Maintenance - Training - Consultancy
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Naval Wing

Client's brief

Cornwall’s dark history in a new world-class attraction

Bodmin Jail on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall was originally built during the reign of King George III in 1779 as part of the ground-breaking Prison Reform, built by military engineer Sir John Call.

The Client purchased Bodmin Jail as a tired heritage attraction, but still delivering some 70,000 visitors a year. Sarner's brief was to rebrand the current business and deliver an immersive world-class attraction which would become a new tourist magnet for Bodmin, Cornwall and England's South West.

Sarner have worked closely with the team at Bodmin Jail Museum Ltd to create an immersive and interactive visitor experience exploring the haunting history of Cornwall. The £8.5m project includes a new build with a pulsed entrance depicting Cornish life using state of the art technology and theatrical effects. The rest of the project is working on the original listed jail building, preserving its heritage and enhancing the atmosphere along the original jail corridors and in the grimy cells.

leaflet

Our solution

The Bodmin Jail Attraction now incorporates a spectacular Dark Walk, the original cells in the Naval Wing, the immersive free flow exhibition in the Administration Block and the UK's only working execution pit, where at least 55 prisoners lost their lives in front of large crowds of up to 25,000 people.

The Dark Walk experience features sensational scenic sets, special effects, films and projections and the latest technology in four linked experiences that allow visitors to immerse themselves in the life and death within the prison walls and the region as a whole. Ghostly voices from Cornwall's murky past appear alongside highway robbers, smugglers and prolific former inmates; following their journeys through sentencing, life in prison, and finally the condemned cell leading to the execution zone.

Features

Prison Warden Mr Doidge
Prison Warden Mr Doidge
Pre-Show

The Pre-Show: Introduction to Cornwall

The Dark Walk is pivotal not only in setting the scene for the visitors prior to entering the real Bodmin Jail, but also in creating a pull for visitor attendance. The content and story have been specifically written to provide an introduction to Cornwall in a time when crime was rife. Visitors start their experience by joining Sir John Call in a secret undiscovered vault behind his library, before being guided down a staircase to delve into the history of the Jail. Bodmin Jail was designed and built by Call in 1779 and was at the forefront of prison reform. Against the sound of an approaching storm, we introduce our guide, the Prison Warden Mr Doidge. With his rough Cornish accent, he tells the audience to prepare themselves as they begin a treacherous journey across Bodmin Moor. Whatever they do, they must stay together and never stray from the path!
Miners and Smugglers
The Cavern

Miners and Smugglers

The tour starts with a walk through the Cavern, where visitors are transported back to the time when poor Cornish miners and smugglers were risking their lives daily. The visitors find themselves in a dimly lit space, part cave, part cellar, part bottom of tin mine. Retold for 21st-century audiences, the haunting cinematic visual experience tells stories of smuggling, mining, wrecking (when boats were lured on to the rocky coastline) and the everyday hardships facing Cornwall’s poorest.
Bodmin Moor
Bodmin Moor
Bodmin Moor
Bodmin Moor

The Moors and Coastline

From the relative security of the cave the visitors enter the wild space of the Moors as night is falling. Thunder cracks loud. Voice of their guide warns them: everything is not as it seems, watch your step! This is a land where criminals escaping justice have disappeared without a trace… while others are strung up and dangle in the wind as a brutal deterrent. The cinematic visual experience tells the stories of the Beast of Bodmin, criminals hiding on Bodmin Moor and even wreckers. A pioneering, multi-dimensional holographic experience in a dynamic environment and surprise special effects enhance the illusion of a live experience for the visitor, bringing to life the individual stories of the prisoners who were housed in the jail between 1779 and 1927. Visitors are treated to a haunting story of Selina Wadge, who was hanged at the age of 28 in 1878 for the murder of her son, whom she was said to have dropped into a well on Bodmin moor. The broad panorama of the moors transitions into a dramatic view down to the rugged coast. A ship is out on the high seas. Storm rises, ship is in danger. As the ship founders against the sharp rocks, a physical ship smashes through and rises up over the audience.
The Village
The Village
The Village
The Village

The Village and Highway

The visitors enter a quiet dimly lit Cornish village. But even here all is not well. Through each window they glimpse a crime being committed or prepared. Domestic strife…Crimes of passion… One of the houses comes alive and visitors learn the stories of a few people who were convicted and spent time at the jail before their execution. Stunning scenic sets and projections transport visitors back to Cornwall’s murky past.
The County Court
The County Court
The County Court

The County Court

Visitors follow in the footsteps of past Cornish criminals and find themselves in a courtroom where they attend recreations of real court cases and hear the verdicts.
The Original Naval Wing
The Original Naval Wing
The Original Naval Wing

The Original Naval Wing

Following the Dark Walk, visitors enter the echoing corridors of the Naval Wing and discover the original grimy cells where criminals were held captive in the 18th and 19th centuries. In a haunting free flow experience leveraging the atmospheric architecture of the original jail, visitors can learn about the gruelling conditions and harsh punishments and get a first-hand look at what the dreary days and nights behind bars were really like for prisoners. Visitors meet dangerous, intriguing, sympathetic and challenging characters who strayed from the path - both hardened criminals and victims of the criminal justice system - and engage with these intensely personal stories via a variety of cutting edge techniques and innovative displays.
The Governor's Office
The Administration Block
The Administration Block
The Administration Block
The Administration Block
The Administration Block

The Administration Block

The journey continues through to the Administration Block and the Governor's Office, which delve deeper into the mechanics of running a hard Victorian prison. In this informative immersive exhibition visitors learn the fascinating background of the people who served, worked and lived at Bodmin Jail, with hidden stories and myths of Cornwall, Bodmin and the historic jail building from an operational perspective.
The Quartermaster's Store
The Quartermaster's Store

The Quartermaster's Store

The Quartermaster's Store is full of eye-catching props and details about the legends and stories of Bodmin Jail and Cornwall. A popular exhibit is the skull found 100 years ago during the demolition of a hospital wing of a creature that some believe is the Beast of Bodmin. As visitors explore the artefacts, an unexpected roar sends chills down their spines as they catch a glimpse of the legendary animal in his lair.
Paranormal

Paranormal

The Paranormal display highlights the paranormal tours and events programme at the attraction and shares footage of some strange - some say other worldly - activity that has been caught on camera at Bodmin Jail, as it claims to be one of the most haunted places in the UK.
The Execution

The Condemned Cell followed by The Execution

The journey continues through the haunting Condemned Cell. There's a chill of the condemned as the path follows the last footsteps of the 55 prisoners who were hanged at Bodmin Jail. The Execution Experience invites visitors to relive the last moments before the condemned were dispatched into eternity. As a powerful finale, the visitors get to see the only original, fully working Victorian hanging pit in the UK.
'Sarner's interpretation of the client's brief has been excellent along with the ability to revisit the brief as the project developed, working under some demanding conditions, delivering within the agreed timeframe and on budget, despite all the challenges thrown up by Covid-19, which is a testament to their professionalism and experience.'
Martin Lyall CEO Bodmin Jail Museum Ltd