BODMIN, a market town and municipal borough in the Bodmin parliamentary division of Cornwall, England, the county town, 301 m. W.N.W. of Plymouth, on branches of the Great Western and London & South-Western railways. Pop. (1901) 5353. It lies between two hills in a short valley opening westward upon that of the Camel, at the southern extremity of the high open Bodmin Moor. The large church of St Petrock, mainly Perpendicular, has earlier portions, and a late Norman font. East of it there is a ruined Decorated chapel of St Thomas of Canterbury, with a crypt. A tower of Tudor date, in the cemetery, marks the site of a chapel of the gild of the Holy Rood. Part of the buildings of a Franciscan friary, founded c. 1240, are incorporated in the market-house, and the gateway remains in an altered form. At Bodmin are a prison, with civil and naval departments, the county gaol and asylum, the headquarters of the constabulary, and those of the duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Cattle, sheep and horse fairs are held, and there is a considerable agricultural trade. The borough is under a mayor, four aldermen and twelve councillors. Area, 2797 acres.
Traces of Roman occupation have been found in the western part of the parish, belonging to the first century A.D. Possibly tin-mining was carried on here at that period. The grant of a charter by King Edred to the prior and canons of Bodmin (Bomine, Bodman, Bodmyn) in respect of lands in Devonshire appears in an inspeximus of 1252. To its ecclesiastical associations it owed its importance at the time of the Domesday survey, when St Petrock held the manor of Bodmin, wherein were sixty-eight houses and one market. To successive priors, as mesne lords, it also owed its earliest municipal privileges. King John’s charter to the prior and convent, dated the 17th of July 1199, contained a clause (subsequently cancelled by Richard II.) by which burgesses were exempt from being impleaded, touching any tenements in their demesne, except before the king and his chief justice. Richard of Cornwall, king of the Romans, confirmed to the burgesses their gild merchant, Edward I. the pesage of tin, and Edward II. a market for tin and wool. Queen Elizabeth in 1563 constituted the town a free borough and the burgesses a body corporate, granting at the same time two fairs and a Saturday market. There are still held also three other fairs whose origin is uncertain. An amended charter granted in 1594 remained in force until 1789, when the corporation became extinct owing to the diminution of the burgesses. By virtue of a new charter of incorporation granted in 1798 and remodelled by the act of 1835, the corporation now consists of a mayor, four aldermen and twelve councillors. The first members for Bodmin were summoned in 1295. Retaining both its members in 1832, losing one in 1868 and the other in 1885, it has now become merged in the south-eastern division of the county. From 1715 to 1837 the assizes were generally held alternately at Launceston and Bodmin; since 1837 they have been held at Bodmin only. A court of probate has also been held at Bodmin since 1773. A festival known as “Bodmin Riding” was formerly celebrated here on the Sunday and Monday following St Thomas’s day (July 7). It is thought by some to have been instituted in 1177 to celebrate the recovery of the bones of St Petrock.
See Victoria County History, Cornwall; John Maclean, Parochial and Family History of the Deanery of Trigg Minor, Cornwall (3 vols., 1873–1879).