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Design


Like an ex-convict searching for redemption, it was subjected to many rehabilitation schemes, which were all largely unsuccessful. A year after it relinquished its penal role, Bodmin became a casino and a nightclub with mock executions before structural problems killed the party. A precarious section of the roof was removed for repairs and over time the jail’s walls started to crumble, leaving it partially derelict. Attempts to blow up the prison in the 1930s for salvage were unsuccessful because its walls were too thick. In 2004 the local Wheten family purchased the old building, restoring its historic walls and transforming it into a part monument, part tourist attraction designed to appeal to history buffs and prison aficionados.


A new start Then, in 2015, the decision was made to breathe new life into Bodmin. Far from a crumbling ruin, property firm Mallino Developments saw it as a perfect site on which to build a 70-room luxury hotel. Step in Matt Cartwright, founder of London-based Twelve Architects, who has been working to that goal ever since. “[When I first saw Bodmin] it was primarily in a ruinous state, except for an element of it, which was a visitor attraction, but it was the client’s vision I was drawn to,” Cartwright explains. “The desire to create a unique offering in terms of hospitality. There’s nothing else quite like it, certainly not in the UK.” A major draw for Cartwright was the freedom that


came with developing an unbranded boutique hotel rather than adhering to more rigid brand standards. The architect, who founded Twelve Architects in 2012, is currently overseeing Radisson’s ambitious flagship hotel in the Russian Urals due to open later this year. Of course, as Cartwright himself concedes, Bodmin is not the first former gaol to become a hospitality space. There’s the Malmaison in Oxford, the old Victorian jailhouse that had its bare cells transformed into hotel suites in the mid-2000s; then there’s the Courthouse Hotel in Shoreditch, where the Kray twins were detained before the first of many court appearances in 1965. European equivalents include the luxurious Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul – formerly Sultanahmet Jail – a converted 100-year-old prison used to incarcerate writers and artists that fulminated against the Ottoman empire. Finland also has Hotel Katajanokka, a former jail in Helsinki that once housed the country’s former President Risto Ryti during the Second World War. Built near government embassies or offices or located on the periphery, ex-jails turned hospitality attractions predominantly lie in urban dwellings. And for good reason. What makes Bodmin unique though is it’s rural, isolated location. Set beside a large expanse of undulating granite


moorland in north-east Cornwall, its pastures steeped in Arthurian legend are part of its allure. In fact, when


Hotel Management International / www.hmi-online.com 61


prospective investors arrived at Bodmin’s crumbling ruins the vines were almost taking over.


Comfort with character


For Cartwright, the aim of the redevelopment plan was to somehow maintain the spirit of a unique building with a special history while at the same time ensuring it became a comfortable, liveable hotel space. “We felt that part of its charm was to leave it in this


kind of semi-ruinous state, and then put modern interventions back into it,” Cartwright explains. “All of the new work that we’ve put back in is clearly modern. We’ve not tried to replicate the original design aesthetic. I think it’s striking that balance between clearly turning it into a premium hotel product which is unique, without losing the essence of Bodmin Jail.” Part of achieving this balance comes from the


exposed brickwork that gives the hotel an austere prison-like feel. Replicas of the original walkways that would have led the accused to their grim fate remain and the rooms still feature the barred steel windows that stopped prisoners from escaping their cells and scaling the walls. Inside the cells, exposed stonework with luxurious carpets, timber floors, wardrobes and a variety of soft furnishings make things more luxurious. Some of the original prison doors have been reinstalled, while efforts were made to reclaim others from old


Above: The architects were keen to maintain aspects of the jail’s “semi-ruinous state”.


Below: The prison corridors and cells as they appeared almost 100 years ago.


Opposite page: The Bodmin Jail Hotel is set to open this summer.


Bodmin Jail Hotel


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