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Case Study: Bodmin Jail by Twelve Architects

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Twelve Architects has transformed an 18th Century derelict Cornwall prison into stunning luxury hotel and visitor attraction.

Bodmin Jail, the 18th century prison, has been restored and reinvented as a luxury boutique hotel within Cornwall.

Designed by Twelve Architects, The Bodmin Jail Hotel development is the second phase of a £50million masterplan project following investment by Mallino Development Group. The first phase saw the modernising and reopening of the adjacent Bodmin Jail attraction in October 2020.

Set over four storeys, with 70 boutique rooms, each with their own story to tell, The Bodmin Jail Hotel is a new full sensory accommodation experience that intertwines the imposing original architecture of the three-hundred-year-old jail with creative, contemporary design.

Located in the former Civil and Naval Wings of the jail, each luxury room has been transformed from three prison cells, retaining many of the original features, including the existing barred windows, weathered stone walls (with genuine inmate graffiti) and ceilings.

Authentic original prison doors salvaged and refurbished from Wandsworth Jail have been fixed into the wall fabric, alongside new doors, which provide a modern interpretation to meet hotel requirements.

Twelve Architects relied on historic photos of the jail to bring the central atrium back to its former glory. Before the project began in 2015, much of the jail had completely lost its roof structure, leaving most of the building open to the elements and covered in foliage.  Finishes had been stripped over the years and some walls damaged from demolition attempts. Using the principles of the original roof, the atria are now naturally lit through a contemporary full-length skylight.

Twelve’s design philosophy was to create a series of diverse spaces aimed at heightening the unique qualities of the building, while creating an immersive visitor experience at every touchpoint.

This multi-sensory experience begins as guests approach the building and witness the dramatic view of the jail tower together with the new sky lights. Once inside the historic perimeter wall, the first experience of containment is felt, and guests are able to soak up the full drama of the impressive and commanding jail wings of the main building.

Visitors are greeted at the lobby which is purposefully narrow to increase the impact of the Civil Wing atrium where they can get their first glimpse of the naturally lit space with reinstated walkways and views of the iconic tower through the skylight.

The hotel rooms themselves have been designed to retain a suggestion of the original cell layout while providing luxurious and comfortable spaces that ensure the guest has made the leap conclusively from historic jail to high spec luxury hotel.

A nod to the Duchy of Cornwall has also been incorporated in the interior design schemes, with the colour scheme reflective of the coat of arms. This sympathetic restoration blends heritage and luxury, celebrating the intrinsic role that the building has played in Cornwall’s past while treating guests to the latest comfort.

Matt Cartwright, Founding Director, Twelve Architects said, It has truly been an honour to bring this important historical building back to life. Bodmin Jail is not only an integral part of Cornwall’s past, but UK history having been one of the first modern prisons in the country.

“Despite its ruined condition, we saw the opportunity to create a series of memorable and distinctive spaces. I am immensely proud of what we have created, and we are looking forward to seeing guests’ reactions as they arrive to stay within this magnificent building.” 

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 Prison Reform by military engineer Sir John Call. The building was a milestone in prison design, based on the plans and ideals of the prison reformer John Howard. It was one of the first modern prisons in the UK with individual cells, segregated male and female areas, hot water and light and airy areas for prisoners to live and work.

As with most old prisons, Bodmin Jail has a dark history. 55 executions took place within its formidable walls, eight of which were women. Most of these executions were viewed by the public, and thousands would travel specially to witness the hangings.

Lorraine Griffith, Associate Director, Twelve Architects said, “This has been one of the most amazing and surprising projects I have had the pleasure to work on.

“We remained true to our concept throughout the process with a clear delineation of new interventions into the unique historic structure. This project has exceeded our expectations and we look forward to this new chapter in Bodmin Jail’s history.”

Twelve Architects was appointed by Mallino Development Group in 2015 to transform the Bodmin Jail attraction in Cornwall into an exciting new multi-use visitor destination, modernising the existing visitor experience, retail, food and drink and education facilities and adding a hotel. Twelve Architects has led the design team of the £50 million project alongside teams at Sarner International, Arup, Total Project Integration, Montagu Evans, Plan for Ecology and Astute Fire.

Rob Cox, Managing Director, Mallino Development Group, added, From our first visit, we could see the potential of this historically important but ultimately ruined building. Working closely with Twelve Architects and the wider project team we were able to develop a clear vision and brief to deliver the breath-taking property that stands before us today. Alongside our recently completed museum we feel that the Hotel finally does justice to this incredible building that sat ruined for so long, we are proud to be part of its rich history and successful future.

“After five years of hard work with our fantastic teams of designers and builders, we cannot wait to show people what has been achieved, but this is only the start of the journey and we look forward to adding more to the development in the future to not only enhance the visitor experience further, but also positively impact the local economy.”

The Bodmin Jail Hotel is also home to a restaurant, bistro, an alfresco dining area and a cocktail and gin bar, and with a space for up to 300 people, it is the biggest wedding, conference, meetings, and events venue in Cornwall. With the aim of creating a better visitor experience that has significant economic benefits to the local community.



Client – Mallino Developments
Lead Consultant, Architects and Masterplanners – Twelve Architects and Masterplanners

Landscape, transport, air quality, ecology, geotechnical/geoenvironmental engineering, structural, mechanical, electrical, and public health (SMEP) building engineering – Arup

Fire Engineering – Astute Fire

Planning & Heritage Consultants – Montagu Evans

Cost management, project management – TPI

Attraction Consultants – Sarner International

Main Contractor – C-Field


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