Bodmin Town Council

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Bodmin Town Council
Shire Hall, Mount Folly Square
Bodmin, PL31 2DQ
Tel: (01208) 76616
Bodmin's History

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A Short History of Bodmin

Name and Origins...

 St Petroc

The name Bodmin is generally interpreted as "dwelling of or by the sanctuary of monks" from the Cornish "Bod-meneghy".

Bod is the Cornish word for abode or dwelling. In c975 and 1086 it was spelt Bodmine; in 1100 Botmenei; in 1253 Bodmen; in 1337 Bodman; and in 1522 Bodmyn.

According to tradition, St Petroc travelled from Padstow to Bodmin early in the 6th century, where he took over an existing monastic settlement established earlier by Uuren, a hermit and later to be known as St Guron.

The monastery developed acquiring extensive land holdings and during the 9th century Bodmin is believed to have been known as Dinurrin and to have been the seat of the Cornish Bishop Kenstec.

By the time of the Domesday survey in 1086 Bodmin had become the most important religious centre in Cornwall, with the shrine housing the relics of St Petroc a focal point for pilgrims.  Bodmin was then the largest town in the county, with a market and 68 dwellings. In the reign of Edward I in 1285 Bodmin became a Borough.

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Medieval Period...

St Petroc's remains carried in a casket

Bodmin continued to be a major religious centre all through the later Medieval period until the Reformation. In about 1136, St Petroc's monastery was re-established as the Augustinian Priory of St Mary the Virgin and St Petroc, with a range of new buildings constructed slightly to the south of the old monastery. In the early 13th century the Franciscan order established a friary in the area of Mount Folly Square.

Other religious foundations included two lazar (leper) houses and several chapels: St Leonard, St Nicholas, St Anthony, St George and St Margaret, which have given their names to various parts of the town.

The wealth of the town in the late medieval period is demonstrated by the rebuilding of the parish church from 1469-72; it is the largest parish church in Cornwall.

As well as being the religious centre of Cornwall Bodmin was also the most important tin market (stannary), tin streaming was carried out all around Bodmin Moor. It was also the largest town in Cornwall during the medieval period. Even though 1500 inhabitants, including the Prior and most of the canons, died during the Black Death, the town recovered and remained a focal point in county affairs.

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Reformation Period...

St Petroc's Church today

The three main Cornish rebellions of 1483, 1497 and 1549 were centred on Bodmin. In 1497 a rebellion against taxes imposed by Henry VII was led by a Bodmin lawyer, Thomas Flamank and Michael Joseph, a blacksmith from St Keverne. With 3,000 men they marched on London but were heavily defeated at Blackheath. In the same year Perkin Warbeck, a pretender to the throne, arrived in Bodmin and proclaimed himself king as Richard IV. He led a Cornish army towards Exeter but was defeated and hanged in 1499 in London. In 1549 the Cornish rebelled once again against the loss of their Latin Mass and the imposition of the Book of Common Prayer in English. An army set off from Bodmin for London and yet again it was defeated with the leaders executed including the Mayor of Bodmin hanged on his own gallows.

The Reformation and Civil War period brought a period of relative stagnation and in 1538 the Priory and other institutions were dissolved with the buildings re-used or demolished. With the basic strength of the economy derived from trade in such as wool and leather Bodmin survived and in 1563 received a Royal Charter from Elizabeth I establishing it as a self governing town. Although Bodmin experienced no fighting during the Civil War, the expenses incurred by supporting the Royalist cause (the town was the headquarters of the royalist army) meant that the town was impoverished by the late 17th century, with many buildings in a state of disrepair.

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Redevelopment (part 1)...

A Fore Street Town House

In the mid 18th century communications improved significantly when the moorland road to Launceston was adopted and improved by the Turnpike Trust. Several coaching inns were established and by 1801 there were 278 town houses and a population of almost 2000.

This was the major period of expansion with significant redevelopment in the town centre with the settlement expanding along the main routes through the town especially to the West along Fore Street and Bore Street.

In the early 19th century, County administrative functions became established in Bodmin. Two important institutions were sited on the edge of town - the County Gaol at Berrycombe and the County Lunatic Asylum, opened in 1820, at Westheath. Close to the Gaol (now the site of the Somerfield supermarket) was the terminus of the Bodmin and Wadebridge steam railway which opened in 1834.

In 1836 Bodmin officially became the County Town when it became the sole Cornish location for the Assizes. The new court building (Shire Hall) opened in 1838 on the site of the medieval friary.

Later expansion in the mid 19th century tended to be towards the east. Following the formation of the Cornwall Constabulary in 1857 the police headquarters were established in 1867 on the corner of Pound Lane and Launceston Road. The building of Bodmin Barracks commenced in 1859 and the County Garrison was established here in 1877. The Great Western Railway (GWR) station, linked to the main line at Bodmin Road, opened in 1887.

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Redevelopment (part 2)...

In the late 19th century Bodmin began to lose county functions to Truro when that town became Cornwall's cathedral city and the newly Shire Hall Todayformed County Council was established there. Bodmin's fine legacy of public buildings of the Georgian and early Victorian period were thus progressively abandoned rather than redeveloped. The courts finally closed in 1988.

Over the past few years, Bodmin has enjoyed something of a renaissance with the refurbishment of the Shire Hall and conversion from courthouse to busy heritage and visitor centre and the townscaping of the Mount Folly area.

A major Townscape Heritage Initiative has resulted in many of the impressive Listed Buildings in the town having a ‘facelift’.

A partnership between Cornwall Council and Bodmin Town Council has enabled the area around the Beacon to be developed into a Local Nature Reserve, providing a vital green space in the town.

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Bodmin Today...

Today Bodmin plays an important role as a market town serving the surrounding rural villages.

At a national level, market towns have been identified as key service and employment centres within the country’s rural areas. Bodmin, as the largest town in north Cornwall and located near the geographical centre of Cornwall, is well placed to fulfill that role. The Town is situated at an important strategic point with the two main routes into Cornwall, the A30 and A38, converging on the outskirts of the town, and it is close to Newquay airport.

The Town is one of the major centres for housing and economic development in mid/east Cornwall and a range of internationally renowned business operate from the town’s industrial estates. Bodmin is gaining a particular reputation for the excellence of its agri-food businesses.

The Bodmin Town Centre Framework Plan, published in May 2007, set out a robust vision for Bodmin town centre, putting forward proposals to ensure that the future development of the town centre is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. This is being widened and further developed into the Bodmin asterplan, led by the Forward Planning Department at Cornwall Council, which will set out a holistic vision for land use planning and transportation for the next 20 years. You can link to the Bodmin Masterplan on Cornwall Council's website here.

The Town Council serves the town of Bodmin, which has a population of approximately 14,700 (2010 mid-year estimate from Office of National Statistics). Many of the services provided by the Council are also enjoyed by people living in the surrounding villages and the thousands of tourists who visit the town each year.

The Town Council was awarded Quality Status in November 2004 and was reaccredited in February 2009 which is a demonstration of the high standard that the Council has achieved across a wide range of criteria.

© Copyright - Bodmin Town Council 2015