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CAMPTON, BEDS.

 

When the coprolites were found and started being exploited in Shillington from 1862 the local landowners must have been keen to discover similar deposits on their property, given the wealth that they brought. The seam was discovered at the junction of the gault clay with the greensand and this was found near the surface just south west of Campton. When they were first actually dug in this parish is uncertain but the 1871 census referred to a William Clark, 21, fossil digger. Others may have described themselves simply as labourers but, although work may have started then, it may have been that he was working elsewhere in the area as there were works in Gravenhurst, Meppershall and Shefford, but the first geological map (6" Beds. 22SE 1881) showed "coprolites formerly dug" just south of Highlands Lodge, exactly on the junction of the clay and sand. They were dug from shallow pits and they may well have been extracted from the immediate area as the local historian, D. Cadman, pointed out that

 

"groups of these (pits) were on Highlands Farm. The nodules were washed in a water filled hole and transported on a short stretch of narrow gauge track to the Gravenhurst Road. From here they went by cart to Shefford Station and by rail to a crushing mill - possibly the one at Royston.

(D. Cadman, "Campton, 1975 )

 

In fact a geological paper referred to the workings in 1874. "The nodules lay in a bed of light-grey clay, and were scattered through a thickness varying from 9 inches to 2 feet... Belemnites minimus was so abundant that they had to be picked out by hand after the nodules were washed and before they were sent away. (Jukes-Brown ,Cretaceous Rocks of Great Britain, Mem.Geol.Surv. 1900, p430; Strahan,Flitt and Denham, "Mineral Resources of G.B. 1915-19, Mem.Geol.Surv.p20) The existance of the tramway suggested it was a large concern and as the major contractors in the area were men employed by Lawes Artificial Manure Company of London, one can presume they were responsible.