On the bright sunny evening about twenty members met in the churchyard of the tower-less All Saints Church of Sutton. Dr Dixon, a local geologist, gave a resume of the geology of the area and the building materials available from the ground. Fortuitously, in the mid _19th century, large quantities of flints, box stones, septaria and red crag became available as waste material from the excavations seeking coprolite (not dinosaur dung but phosphatic nodules). Professor Henslow of Cambridge University (and founder of Ipswich Museum) analysed them and recognised their potential as a fertiliser. This led to Messrs Packard and Fison establishing the fertiliser industry in Ipswich, now gone, but Coprolite Street still remains. We examined the walls of the church and were shown flints encrusted with barnacles, fossilised shells (millions of years old), box stones, and red crag shells in the mortar.
Then we drove by verdant fields and hedges to the church of St Margaret of Antioch in Shottisham. Here we were set the task of identifying the assorted construction materials including septaria with holes bored by the Teredo 'worm'. Exotic stones obtained from the ballast of sailing ships had also been incorporated into the fabric (nothing new in re-cycling!). As dusk fell we made our way to St Andrew's Church at Alderton with its ruinous ivy-covered tower illustrating the disadvantages of the soft crumbly septaria as a building stone. The church is a large edifice of rubble reinforced with brick courses and a Welsh slate roof. We examined the walls and again found a wide range of materials. Many thanks to Caroline and Bob Markham for an educational and convivial evening in the Suffolk Sandlings.