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SHOTLEY, SUFFOLK

 

The earliest evidence of coprolite diggings in Shotley was in 1858. It was included in a list of nine Suffolk villages exporting the raw material for conversion into superphosphate in factories in Ipswich and Harwich. (Mem.Geol.Surv. Mineral Statistics, HMSO. (1860), p.375) There is no evidence as to who was involved in the parish but Mr. Whitaker, a Victorian geologist, gave the location of the pits in a geological paper he wrote on the Ipswich area. Just northwest of the village, at Cowton Bottom, there was a pit from which coprolite was extracted in the 1870s. There were references to several crag pits which may also have had the coprolites exploited. About three quarters of a mile Northwest of Kirton Hall there was a pit next to Hill House and there was another not far north of Church Farm, half a mile northwest of Chelmoniston near Long Wood and Pages Common. No evidence of the landowners' financial arrangements with farmers or coprolite contractors have come to light.

Apart from digging fossils another unusual occupation that employed many in the parish was described in the local trade directory, "Sea Boats are employed here in collecting stone for the manufacture of Roman Cement." (White's Directory 1874) This involved nodules of septaria, lumps of clay, which were dredged along the mouth of the estuary. Along with the local clay they formed the basis of a small cement industry. In 1871 Lucas C. King was described in the census as a "Farmer of 76 acres employing 4 labourers and 2 boys, Cement Stone Merchant employing 6 men." This had been going on at least since the 1850s when many men described themselves as cement stone dredgers and loaders.

By 1874 the Shotley Brick, Lime and Cement Works had started with Edward Gibbons as the manager. There was no indication, however, that they were also selling coprolites. (Ibid.) These large works by the river may well have developed from the early coprolite workings that had exposed the London Clay at the base of the crag. Like many other villages on the coprolite belt these works took on the "owd coproliters" once their industry had finished. (Whitaker, "Geology of Ipswich Etc." p.48; Suff.83NW,1891)