Back to publications



 According to contemporary geological reports, the coprolites were first worked in this area in 1874. It appeared Mr. Henry Wilkerson, of Leighton Buzzard, was the manager of the works for Morris and Griffin‘s Manure Company‘s of Wolverhampton. He was also responsible for workings in many villages in the area including Sharpenhoe, Barton, Cheddington, Northall and possibly Billington. (I. O‘Dell‘s notebooks in Luton Museum.) The fossils attracted the interest of a number of geologists and in Jukes-Brown’s 1875 paper it was mentioned that, ”Mr. Wilkerson told me that in the second cutting in the railway north of Harlington the same band of coprolites (as that worked at Buckland etc.) was met with light coloured clay above them. Mr. Pearce of Harlington also told me that coprolites occurred about 20 feet down in the clay pit on the right hand side of the road to Toddington.” (Jukes-Brown, 1875, p267.)

In January 1875, when it seemed that land nearby might have a bed of coprolite in the greensand, the owners were keen to ascertain the whereabouts and economic prospects of exploiting this valuable source of additional revenue. The administrators of the Oakington Hospital Trust, the Draper‘s Company, entrusted the work to an experienced coprolite surveyor, Charles Bidwell, who then tested fields in Harlington, Flitton, Pulloxhill, Flitwick, Streetly and Westoning. They must have been disappointed when he reported that the land of Hermitage and Greenfield Farms in Flitton, Pulloxhill and Flitwick, “ not contain a vein of coprolites of sufficient value to pay for the cost of excavation, there may be here and there a small pocket of fossils, but none of mercantile value.” (Cambs.CRO. Bidwell 30 pp18-22) His report on Lower East End Farm, Grange Farm and Grange Mill in the parishes of Streetly, Westoning and Harlington was more optimistic. ”When I made my survey of these lands I found coprolites of very fair quality close to the surface near Grange Mill and looking to the position and general features of this valley I thought it right to have these lands carefully tested.• (Ibid) The result of his borings and further comments can be seen on page .. but unfortunately no records have come to light indicating they were exploited but it does seem likely that Morris and Griffin would have been interested. There was a reference to them being discovered in the brickworks at Fancott, two miles to the northwest but it was not clear whether the black coprolites were also exploited. (Jukes-Brown, ”On the Relations of the Cambridge Gault and Greensand, p263)