Have you ever wondered why we have a ‘fossil animal dung’ street in Ipswich? If so, you need a copy of GeoSuffolk’s new leaflet: Suffolk’s Crag Coprolites. These phosphate nodules, which occur in our local Red Crag sands, were discovered by John Henslow of Cambridge University in the cliffs at Felixstowe while he was on holiday there in 1843. His initial thought was that they were coprolites (fossil animal droppings – possibly some are!) and the name has stuck. He had them analysed, discovered the high phosphate content and thus began Packard’s and later Fison’s fertiliser industry.

The coprolite pits were mostly in the Deben estuary area and they were brought to the factory on what is now Coprolite Street in Ipswich to be ground up, treated with sulphuric acid and turned into fertiliser. The factory moved out to Bramford in the 1850s, but the building remained for over a century. It can be seen in the photograph below, taken in the 1960s; today the Neptune Marina apartment block opposite the University of Suffolk stands in its place and only the name of the street running between these two buildings remains as testament to our ‘coprolite’ industry.

Written by Bob Markham, the leaflet is free thanks to funding from The Ipswich Institute and The Ipswich Society. You can find copies at Ipswich Museum, or download it from the GeoSuffolk archive:

Leaflets / 'Suffolk Crag Coprolites'.

Caroline Markham

Photograph courtesy: Bob Markham