I'm looking for inmate records for Bodmin Gaol jail in the UK circa 1835-1839. My 4th great-grandfather Phillip Stephen Rule (born 1777) was an inmate there based on records I have found on ancestry.com, but all I can find is his release year of 1839. I cannot find when he was imprisoned or what he was in there for to begin with.

  • genealogy.stackexchange.com/a/12002/104 is probably what you need to know.
    – user104
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 17:48
  • Welcome to G&FH SE! I'm going to make this a duplicate of an earlier question because I think "The Cornwall Family History Society are doing transcripts of various documents (see GenUKI)" and "Bodmin Bridewell and its inmates, 1821-1848 [electronic resource] by Sally J. Pocock." covers the information necessary to answer it.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 22:57
  • When was Phillip born? It may help you to narrow down the range of years in which it is likely that he was admitted to Bodmin. Maybe there is a quarter session record like in the duplicate.
    – PolyGeo
    Commented Feb 13, 2017 at 23:04
  • 1
    The removal of Philip jr referenced by @PolyGeo above was quashed on appeal due to an argument over the residential status of Philip sr going back many years. There's coverage of that appeal in legal journals, including this one on Google Books. That appeal was heard on 26 Apr 1834, and does not mention the elder Philip's incarceration, so he was probably not in Bodmin then.
    – AndyW
    Commented Feb 14, 2017 at 15:01
  • 1
    @PolyGeo - fair enough. I've put together what I've found. It doesn't really answer the question, but might still be helpful.
    – AndyW
    Commented Feb 15, 2017 at 10:34

2 Answers 2


The OP notes a record on Ancestry that describes Philip Rule's discharge from Bodmin jail in 1839. It does not give a reason for incarceration, nor a committal date. This appears to be the only record on that site for Philip in Bodmin. The timing of, and reasons for, his jailing may be found in the aforementioned Pocock database, but there is a chance that no such records remain.

We can learn more about Philip and his family, though, from the records that have already been uncovered. @PolyGeo identified a National Archive search that has entries for Philip Rule of Camborne, and his son, also named Philip.

I'm going to refer to the elder Phillip/Philip as "Philip I" and the younger as "Philip II" in here, just for clarity. I'm not implying that they were Kings of Spain. :)

The 1834 legal report discusses an appeal at the King's Bench court (which moved around the country to hear cases) against a removal order on Philip II.

We might need definitions of a couple of legal terms here, such as "settlement" and "removal".

The Elizabethan Poor Laws, "made each parish responsible for supporting the legitimately needy in their community … though they were not obligated to provide for those outside of their community." As the poor flocked to more generous parishes, the later Settlement Act "allowed such people to be forcefully removed" back to their home parishes, and gave rise to "sojourners, people who resided in different settlements that were not their legal one". A 1691 act then introduced "methods by which people could gain settlement in new locations", including apprenticeships.

+ Settlement is the legal residence of a person, where the parish is responsible for their care in destitution. It is not necessarily where they actually live.
+ Removal is the process of returning a pauper to their parish of settlement for support ("relief") there.
+ A sojourner is someone living outside of their settlement parish.

My summary and interpretation of the appeals case is as follows. (If I've got it wrong, please let me know!)

The original removal order aimed to move Philip II from Gwinear, where he lived, to Camborne, where he was considered to have settlement on the grounds that his father lived there. The appeal against this order was based on the location of Philip I's settlement.

Philip I had lived with his family as a child in Camborne, until they were removed to St Erth. In 1789 (aged ~12) he was bound in apprenticeship in St Erth to a local farmer until the age of 21. By the 1691 act above, he would attain settlement in St Erth once his apprenticeship had completed. Philip I moved with his "master" to another parish, Phillack, during this period. With about 2 years remaining on his apprenticeship, Philip I left his master's household and returned to his father, now back in Camborne. His father negotiated with the master, agreeing to pay a sum of money in return for Philip I's "indenture" (roughly, his apprenticeship contract). During this period, the father was still supported by St Erth, his settlement parish.

So the case hinged on where Philip I's settlement was. The court concluded that Philip I had not completed his apprenticeship in Camborne, so he never gained settlement there. As a result, Camborne were responsible neither for Philip I nor Philip II, and so the removal order of the latter to Camborne was not valid.

The case isn't directly relevant to the original question - nobody went to jail - but it does contain some potentially useful information. It tells us that three generations of the Rule family - Philip II, Philip I and the latter's father - were paupers at some time in their lives, and it lists several parishes in which they lived, along with some occupational details. Camborne and St Erth are around 10 miles apart, with Gwinear and Phillack between them, so they were still moving around a relatively small area.

From Pallot's Marriage Index (also Ancestry), Philip Rule was a sojourner when he married Ann in 1802. This correlates well with the appeal case report where he is not living in his settlement parish. (Philip I's legal settlement parish is never made clear, but must presumably have been St Erth, or perhaps Phillack).

It is also worth noting that a surname search for "Rule" in the Bodmin record set on Ancestry brings up 36 results, 14 from Camborne. These include Philip I and Phillip II, and are likely to involve other members of the extended Rule family. Their crimes included rioting, assaulting a police officer, theft, bigamy and, worst of all, stealing Ellen Vincent's skirt.

Ancestry also has two Workhouse records from 1843 for Philip I, here and here, which state that he had no employment or means of support. The latter describes Philip I as a Methodist, so there's a chance that records from that church may mention him.

It's likely that a wider search and more detailed study of these (and other) criminal and poverty-related records across several parishes will yield more information about the Rule family and their lives, even if they don't bring detail to Philip I's vacation in Bodmin.

(Note, I've given Ancestry.co.uk links, as those are the ones I have access to. I believe that changing the "co.uk" to "com" in the link will convert them successfully to the US site.)


The FamilyHistory.co.uk website have a section dedicated to Cornwall Family History - http://www.familyhistory.co.uk/cornwall-family-history/

They include details of Cornwall Record Office and they might be worth contacting. They also include details of the local Cornwall Newspaper Archives and the dates covered. The Royal Cornwall Gazette covers the period you are looking for. I did an exact search under a few different options and tried "philip rule" and did come up with a Philip Rule for date 18 August 1832 who was convicted of stealing a leg of lamb from a stall at Camborne Market and imprisoned for a month. It's not the date you're looking for but might be the man you are looking for. Might be worth you taking some time to do some more searches on there.

  • Welcome to the site, Nigel! That's a useful link, and the newspapers are always worth searching for subjects such as this one. As it happens, Ancestry have two "Philip Rule" entries for Bodmin Gaol. The 1839 entry is for a Philip Rule born 1777 (as in the OP), while the 1832 entry is for a Philip Rule born 1804. I think the larcenous lamb-leg-lifting latter is Philip II, son of Philip I.
    – AndyW
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 11:58
  • Hi Andy, thanks for the welcome - and thanks for the useful info on Philip II
    – NigelD
    Commented Feb 24, 2017 at 12:33

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