The earliest documentation of diggings in Bucklesham was in 1858. The village was included in a list of nine parishes raising this mineral. Where they were worked at that time is not certain but subsequent evidence showed pits on Church Farm. The trade directory for that year pointed out that, “There are several crag pits in the parish, containing many fossil shells, some of them very curious.” (Kelly’s 1858) In many cases, the crag and the coprolites, which were found at its base, were worked together and, although no evidence has emerged to confirm it, such was the demand for the coprolites for use in making artificial manure that it is quite likely they were worked continuously into the 1870s.
In the 1861 census there were nine coprolite labourers reported in the parish. One lived at Church Farm, which may well have been worked. The others lived on Bucklesham Street. It was generally a young man’s job as their average age was 22.3. The eldest was John Moor at 33, and the youngest, 11 year old James Fulcher. As five were born outside the parish it seems they had been attracted to the parish by the better pay in the diggings. Three of them were lodgers.
No further documentation emerged until the 1871 census which shows only two 12 year old “boys in coprolite pit,” James Lewis and Henry Gardner. Clearly others must have been involved but they did not describe themselves as coprolite labourers.
During the 1870s there were workings in many of the surrounding parishes. In 1874 it became clear as to who was involved in Bucklesham when the parish records reveal that one of the Ipswich manure manufacturers, Edward Packard, had his coprolite works on Church Farm, tenanted by Mrs Reeve. They were “in full operation” and were rated to the value of £120, money which went to the relief of the poor of the parish. (SCRO. FC47.A1/1) How long they were worked is uncertain but with the downturn in the market during the agricultural depression of the late-1870s and early-1880s, where farmers had open pits on their land, they often could not afford to hire labourers to fill them in. This may have been the explanation for the pit seen on the map on page .. . There was no one described as involved in the 1881 census. (25” Suffolk, 1881, 83.3)
One curious piece of evidence was the fact that in 1889 a Miss Browne presented a rostrum, the snout bone of a fossil bottle-nosed whale, to Ipswich Museum which she said came from the coprolite works at Bucklesham. (R.Markham’s Coprolite file, Ipswich Museum) Whether they were in operation at that time is uncertain but the last pits in the area did not close until the early 1890s.