Following the discovery in 1842 that the contents of the Suffolk bone bed could be extracted and used as a raw material in the manure business a new extractive industry began. After being washed and sorted it was sent to the manure works where, after being ground to a powder it was dissolved in sulphuric acid to produce superphosphate.
By 1846 a similar deposit was discovered in Cambridgeshire which attracted the attention of some of the Suffolk manure manufacturers. Frederick Laws, of Foxhall Hall, was one of the first coprolite contractors to lease land in Cambridge. He worked part of Coldham's Common for two years from 1854. When the City Corporation realised how profitable the deposit was they wanted more than the guinea (£1.05) a ton Mr Laws was paying them. He was not willing to renew his lease with them but is not known whether he then returned to Suffolk and worked the local "coprolites."
Foxhall had many coprolite workings during the second half of the nineteenth century and the earliest reference to them in Foxhall parish was in 1855. A note in the when the famous "Foxhall Jaw" was found in the gravel heap of a 16 feet deep coprolite pit in the grounds of Foxhall Hall. (Spencer H.E.P., 'A contribution to the History of Suffolk Lowestoft,' undated, pp.118-20; Moir J.R.,'The Antiquity of Man in East Anglia,' C.U.P., 1927; Spencer H.E.P., 'The Foxhall Man', East Anglian Magazine, April 1965)
In 1858 the village was included in a list of nine that were involved in selling coprolites but actual evidence from landowners has not emerged to shed light on the financial arrangements. (Mem.Geol.Survey Mineral Statistics, HMSO.1860,p.375) According to the 1861 there was no-one recorded as fossil or coprolite labourers. Maybe it indicates that there wasn't a gang employed but local landowners using their own agricultural labourers who dug the fossils over the winter months. As such they didn't term themselves specifically as fossil labourers. In some parishes they did however.
There were workings going on in 1863 as party of members of the Geological Association, after a trip to see Edward Packard's manure works at Bramford, "next proceeded to the crag and coprolite pit at Foxhall worked by Mr. Everett." Whether Mr Everett was a landowner, farmer or coprolite manager is uncertain.
No further references to the diggings emerged until the 1870s when the 1871 census revealed that Frederick Wainwright, a 45 year old was described as a "farmer of 1150 acres employing 13 men and 27 boys also 23 men and 15 boys in Coprolite Pit." He must have been benefiting from the sale of the coprolites as, living with his wife, two daughters and two sons he had two servants. How long he had been working in the parish is uncertain but he was still in operation in the late 1870s as his company was included in an entry in the government‘s statistics of coprolites raised in Suffolk. (Mineral Statistics,‘ Mem.Geol.Surv. 1876, p.132; 1877, p.145; 1878, p.147)
His pit must have been one of several described by Mr Whitaker, a local geologist, who made a study of the area which was published in 1885. He stated that the nodule bed was worked about a quarter of a mile east of Foxhall Lodge and in 1875 there were two pits in operation at the southern end of the plantation. Opposite and east of the Farm there was a pit which had been worked out by 1874. Just to the south of the Hall a new pit was opened in 1875 which was 27 feet (9.45m.) deep. Further east of the Hall another coprolite working showed a foot thick nodule bed at 33 to 36 feet (12.21 - 12.6m.), a section of which was included in his paper. On the west side of the lane about a quarter of a mile west of Foxton Lodge there was another coprolite pit in operation in 1876. It was 25 feet (9.25m.) deep and on the opposite side of the lane was another 27 feet deep. About a third of a mile (530m.) to the east, on the northern side of the little valley there was a pit reported in 1877 with another just east of it. (Whitaker, 'Geology of Ipswich,'1885, pp.61-3; Wood, S.V. and Harmer, F.W.,‘ (1877), Later Tertiary Geol. of East Anglia', Quart.Journ.Geol.Soc. vol.xxxiii., p.81)
Messrs Everett and Wainwright were not the only coprolite contractors involved. The local trade directories of the 1880s and 1890s revealed other coprolite raisers, Henry Clarke in 1885 and George Clarke in 1892. The latter lived at Foxhall Lodge. Whether James Fison who was farming Valley Farm in 1892 was a relative of the Fison manure manufacturing family is uncertain but possible when they were one of the major manufacturers in the area at that time. (White‘s 1885,1892) Landowners in the parish during the time of the coprolite diggings included Captain E.G. Pretyman, the lord of the manor and the executors of J. C. Cobbold. No records of them having made arrangements to have the coprolites worked have come to light but, if the deposit crossed their property, they too would have profited from the royalties being paid by the Ipswich manure manufacturers.
In a detailed account of the industry by the local historian, Walter Tye, in the 1930s he revealed that,
”Veins and pockets were found on most farms in the district, and as much as £20 worth was often dug from a cottager‘s garden... On looking up old Suffolk directories, I find that Mr. Wainwright of Foxhall... had pits on his farm from which he extracted coprolites and continued working them until about 1893 when the industry petered out... The Foxhall pit is said to have been the deepest in the country, varying from forty to sixty feet... It is said that Wainwright‘s carters at Foxhall often had to do two journeys a day to the docks, and that in addition to loading and unloading."
(Walter Tye, (1930), 'Birth of the Fertilizer Industry', Fisons Journal, pp.5-7. )