One of Britain’s ‘most haunted’ buildings has been transformed from an abandoned, 18th-century jail into a place you’d actually want to sleep

  • Bodmin Jail, said to be one of Britain's 'most haunted' buildings, has been transformed from a derelict 18th-century prison into a four-star hotel.
  • Located in Cornwall, the jail was the site of 55 executions between 1779 and 1927 and later fell into ruin.
  • After five years of renovations, the Bodmin Jail Hotel will open in early 2021 with rates starting at $324 per night.
  • Guests will be able to sleep in converted jail cells and dine in the former prison chapel.
  • Insider spoke with London-based studio Twelve Architects about the process of transforming an abandoned jail overrun by vegetation, birds, and bats into a vacation destination.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Five years ago, Matt Cartwright and Lorraine Stoutt Griffith, director and associate director of London-based Twelve Architects, visited the derelict Bodmin Jail to assess whether or not they could turn it into a luxury hotel.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Built in 1779 under the reign of King George III, the Bodmin Jail complex is located in Cornwall, England, about five hours west of London.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

The Gothic-style building functioned as a debtors' prison for its first 90 years and was the site of 55 executions for crimes ranging from burglary to murder, according to the Bodmin Jail Museum.

Source: Bodmin Jail Museum

From 1887 until 1922, the Royal Navy occupied parts of the building. Then in 1927, the jail closed down. Abandoned for decades, it fell into ruin.

Source: Bodmin Jail Museum

When Cartwright and Stout Griffith arrived, the prison's two atrium wings were covered in vegetation and overrun by pigeons and birds.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Sunlight poured in through spaces where doors, windows, and roofs once existed, and the walls dripped with condensation.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Stoutt Griffith at first wasn't sure that turning the ruins into a hotel would be possible. On her second visit to the site, she thought, "There's no way. The windows are tiny. This is so imposing. What are we going to do with the stone? Everything is wet."

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel, Bodmin Jail Museum

But the "church-like" quality of the atrium gave her hope for what the building's future could be.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

"You've got these juxtapositions between what it was used as and what it is as a piece of architecture," she said.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Now after five years of planning and renovation, the Bodmin Jail is set to open as a hotel on February 12, 2021 with rates starting at $324 per night.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Twelve Architects took care to maintain much of the original structure of the building while installing modern upgrades.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Instead of vegetation and open sky, the atrium is now lined with a pitched glass roof and sleek, metal walkways.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

"We reinserted all of the galleries — the walkways — within the atrium because they had all gone," Stoutt Griffith told Insider.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Twelve Architects also installed glass elevators outside of the atrium to give visitors "a break from being within the jail" and a chance to "see the outside world," Cartwright told Insider.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

The jail's once-barren prisoner cells have been transformed into 70 furnished guest suites.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Each suite consists of three interconnected cells. One serves as the bedroom, another functions as the living area …

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

… and the third is a spacious bathroom.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Making jail rooms "cozy" with carpeting, furniture, and multiple levels of lighting was an important objective for Stout Griffith.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

"Obviously you don't want to be staying in a jail,"she told Insider. "You could go and stay in a youth hostel if you want that kind of experience."

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

The two wings of the atrium, formerly known as the Naval and Civil Wings, will house the guest suites. The Civil Wing will also include the lobby and reception area.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Upon arrival, guests will be greeted by a host and invited to check in at a socially distanced guest table while they enjoy a drink from a trolley, a representative for the hotel told Insider.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

A third area between the two wings — the former chapel and dining area — will house a tavern, restaurant, and bar featuring over 100 types of gin from around the world.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

To the right is the independently operated Bodmin Jail attraction that opened to the public on October 1 and will be available to hotel guests. The experience includes interactive exhibitions detailing the jail's history.

Source: Bodmin Jail Museum

Renovating the hotel did not come without challenges, Stoutt Griffith and Cartwright told Insider. For instance, the jail's exterior walls are about 3-feet thick, and few walls are straight.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Their team also had to work with an ecologist to remove and re-home bats that lived in the structure. They built a nearby 'bat bungalow,' and the project progressed depending on whether or not bats had left an area yet.

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

Despite challenges, working on this project has been a one-of-kind experience, Stoutt Griffith told Insider. "You don't get spaces like this anymore," she said. "No one's going to build a space like this. You're inhabiting history."

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

The hotel experience will be "comfortable and warm," Stoutt Griffith added, despite being located in a jail that some locals say is "haunted."

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel, Visit Cornwall

"Before you enter the building … you might look up and think 'wow, that looks pretty scary or a bit austere,'" Stout Griffith said. "But once you walk into the building … I think then it almost feels more comfortable because of the contrast."

Source: Bodmin Jail Hotel

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