In November 1871 Earl Brownlow, as Lord of the Manor, allowed the manure manufacturers, Morris and Griffin of Wolverhampton, the right to raise coprolites on land on his estate in Northall. The map on page .. shows the line of the junction of the chalk marl and the Gault clay where the fossils were to be found running almost north south between Slapton and Northall. Also shown are the fields dug over. The tenant farmer, Mr Archer, was to see almost 20 acres worked by a gang of local labourers supervised by Henry Wilkerson, the manager of the works. Wilkerson was also in charge of the coprolite workings where they were found between the gault clay and the chalk marl along a stretch from Billington and Cheddington and again between Puttenham and Buckland. (Jukes-Brown,1875,p267.)
The centre of the operations in this area was the nine acre field to the south of the stream, beside which a washmill was erected where the fossils were washed brought there from the surrounding workings in wooden carts along a tramway which can also be seen on the plan having a good water supply at the adjacent stream, provided the erected the plant needed to wash the fossils in the corner of the field near the road and built up more than three acres of slurry pans where the dirty water from the washed coprolites was left dry out. The tramway shown on the map would have allowed cartloads of fossils to be hauled by horse from the fields on the other side of the road to the washmill. An engine would have powered the mill and there would have been sheds for plant and machinery.
An account book from the works showed that the diggers commenced working Home Meadow in December 1873 and over tha winter and spring they dug 5a.2r.10p. The labour costs were 1063 2 7d, and they raised 683 tons. With the coprolite being able to be sold at up to 3 a fair amount of profit was made. One field near Slapton (not included on the surveyor’s maps) was started after the harvest on October 15th 1874 and by May 14th the next year, the diggers had raised 391 tons at a cost of 788 2 5. Another 2a.3r.16p. in Northall Fen was dug by that December, which realised 448 tons at a cost of 626.2.1d. Work continued on both sides of the road until 1876 by which time 5a.1r.35p. of Jack’s Close had been dug by March and 5a.2r.22p of the 9 acre field by May.
It would appear the 1871 census was too early to have included any fossil diggers but the few years the work was in operation must have seen a boost to the village economy with the better wages the men would have got. The only evidence to be seen today is the site of the slurry pans, a raised section beside the stream where the clay from the muddy water would have been allowed to settle.