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Dear Bernard,

I have looked at the index of the RASE Journal and although there are
numerous references to both COPROLITE and the WOBURN EXPERIMENTAL STATION,
none appears at first glance to answer your question.

However the records of the Committee that may throw some light on the issue
are with our older archives at Reading University.

Might I suggest that you contact Caroline Gould, the Archivist at the Museum
of English rural Life (Email: and ask her to look
at the minute books of the Woburn Sub Committees. They are recorded within
the B administrative records, at X - Subsidiary Committee Minutes, Farm.
Please let me know how you get on and if I can be of any further help.

Kind Regards,

Phillip S.

Phillip Sheppy, MBE, FRAgS,
Hon. Librarian,
Royal Agricultural Society of England,
National Agricultural Centre,
Stoneleigh Park,
Warwickshire CV8 2LZ. England
Tel: 024 7669 6969 or 024 7685 3076 (direct line)
International:+44(0)24 7669 6969 or +44(0)24 7685 3076  (direct line)

-----Original Message-----
From: []
Sent: 25 May 2004 16:04
Subject: Woburn Agricultural Research Station

Bernard O'Connor sent the following message from
the RASE web site at
Dear Phillip, I research JB Lawes involvement in the coprolite industry and
wondered whether you have any records that might shed light on this enquiry?


In late 1876, the Royal Agricultural Society took on Lawes and Gilbert as
consultants. The ninth Duke of Bedford allowed them to use part of the
lighter sandier soils on his estate at Apsley Guise to investigate the
accuracy of Lawes' figures for residual manurial value of different types of
animal feeding stuffs. Thus the Woburn Experimental Station was set up (TL
965362). This work was topical because, under the provisions of the
Agricultural Holdings Act of 1875, tenants could be compensated for
improvements they had made to the soil, like the addition of fertilisers,
whose efficacy had not been exhausted.

The late-19th century maps of this area show a considerable number of sand
and clay pits. They were probably developed at the same time as the
coprolite diggings when demand for building materials was at its height.
Many estates and churches were renovated during the early 1870s and those
towns on the railway expanded considerably with new industries and housing.
An old gravel pit between the Rookery and the Radwell Pit in Apsley Guise at
the junction of the Lower Greensand with the Oxford Clay was noted on A. C.
Cameron's first 6-inch geological map as "perhaps coprolitic" (TL  932363).
Whether it was worked is uncertain but a small coprolite pit was marked
between Woburn Sands and Husborne Crawley. It was on the eastern side of the
road, opposite the public house on the crest of the Greensand Ridge (TL
961357). No documentation related to it has come to light. The word
"COPROLITES" was written over a stretch of land on the 50 ft. (16 m.)
contour less than an eighth of a mile (200 m.) northwest of Manor Farm and
Crawley Farm - the centre of the Research programme! (TL 950365). Another
pit with a mention of coprolites was located at the northwest corner of the
crossroads, about 200 yards (66 m.) southwest of Crawley Mill Farm (TL
962359). A tramway led to the Bedford Branch of the London and North Western
Railway to the north. Ridgmont Station was only a mile (1.6 km.) away. It is
possible that Lawes won contracts from local landowners and experimented
with them on the fields at the Experimental Station.

A report on the remaining phosphate deposits during the Second World War
referred to "coprolite diggings" on the northern slopes of the Greensand
Ridge in Apsley Guise and further east in Ridgmont. Unfortunately,
documentation for these workings has not come to light. (Town and Country
News, 'Aiding British Agriculture', Sep. 28th 1934, pp.3-4; 6 inch Beds. 21
NW; 20SE 1889; Oakley, op.cit. fig. 3)
WOULD THE RAS records shed any light on this?
Many thanks, Bernard O'Connor