'Let Electricity Work For You', Coprolite Street (derivation), Grimwade Hall

Possibly the ugliest building in Ipswich up until recently, this Electricity sub-station with its iron-plated frontage and just-readable lettering: 'Electricity Work For You' (perhaps it had a 'Let' in front of it?) lies on Duke Street, facing the end of Coprolite Street. The whole area was being transformed in 2005 as part of the Waterfont Regeneration involving demolition of silos, development and building work until the global financial crash of 2007-8 and this electricity sub-station is no exception. Most would agree that it's an improvement on the empty dock and deserted wharves.  The nearby, long-disused Grimwade Memorial Hall (see below) on the corner of Back Hamlet and Fore Hamlet has undergone a good refurbishment with decorative stonework and restored brick details; needless to say it's now flats.

Duke Street
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Duke St 1
2003 images

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Duke St 2

Ipswich Historic Lettering: Duke St 3

The above is now a glittering fish restaurant in glass and chrome, Mortimers Seafood (later Loch Fyne, The Forge) having moved from a building next to Christies Warehouse on the Wet Dock, to be replaced by a bistro. The shape of things to come... Now a vague memory: here's that slogan of yore:
See our page on Public clocks in Ipswich for a 2018 view of the restaurant (now The Forge) frontage and its clock.

Coprolite Street
Coprolite: a definition
'Copralite' suggests 'fossilised dinosaur dung' or 'fossilised sea serpent dung' – other fanciful definitions are popular, probably because they make a story people want to believe. In fact, the actual definition is a bit more down-to-earth  (literally – see below). But people prefer to cling to the fossilised dung story.

Coprolite Street gained its name from the fertiliser plant (called rather quirkily 'Manure Manufactory' on maps
) owned by the pioneering Edward Packard built at the dock end of this street in 1850, which produced artificial fertiliser used to improve agricultural soils. Coprolites are nitrogenous fossil nodules, which are contained in the red crag beneath large areas of eastern Suffolk. The nodules contain high levels of calcium phosphate which, it was discovered, can be ground up and, by the application of sulphuric acid, converted into superphosphate, better known as chemical (or artificial) fertiliser. Coprolites were first dug in 1817 by Edmund Edwards, a farmer at Levington. The idea was eventually taken up by Darwin's mentor and second President of the Ipswich Museum, the Rev. John Stevens Henslow; he was a former Professor of Botany and Mineralogy at Cambridge University who retired to become the rector of Hitcham, Suffolk. Coprolite was dug in particular from the banks of Suffolk rivers the Orwell and the Deben. Apparently, the inhabitants of Trimley St Mary and Trimley St Martin were called treacle miners because of the coprolite that was dug there.

Packard's original coprolite works were sited on today's 'Neptune Marina' block of flats on the south side of Coprolite Street (and today the Suffolk University Waterfront Building is on the north side).  Below is a photograph from the nineteen-sixties(?) of the factory; the first two gables are probably the extent of the works. The 1867 map
of the area on our Ransomes Orwell Works site shows the relatively small size of the works (marked 'Factory'). Ironically, the factory here only lasted from the late 1840s to 1854 because of the acidic fumes produced during processing. The business was moved to works off Paper Mill Lane at Bramford, which eventually grew into the giant Fisons Fertilisers business. On the photograph, the fascade with teagle door and overhanging gantry facing the waterfront is part of the Ransomes iron works. Coprolite Street (with cars parked) runs away from the water towards the Electricity sub-station. Above the car nearest to the corner is affixed to the filthy 'Suffolk whites' wall the street nameplate with superior 'T' in 'Street'.
Coprolite Street - period photo1960s(?) images
Below: here is the 21st century street nameplate (with coloured Borough coat of arms) in more or less the same position: today, beside the entrance to 'Neptune Marina' (tower block) car park entrance and the corner of Coffee Link.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Coprolite St 20152015 image
Below: a 1970s photograph from The Ipswich Society's Image Archive (see Links) showing the corner of the former Packard's artificial fertiliser works and Duke Street. The large metal sign: 'FISONS LIMITED' has been crudely whitwewashed over, suggesting  that the works were unused at this time. The arched loading door: ''KEEP CLEAR FOR LORRIES LOADING' is also of interest. Just visible at the extreme left is Spurdens newsagent's shop on the other side of Duke Street which still operates today. Since the Waterfront Regeneration scheme this corner has been occupied by the Duke Street entrance to the rear of the Neptune Marina block.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Coprolite Street 1970s
1970s image courtesy The Ipswich Society
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Coprolite Street 2021
2021 comparison

The Suffolk coprolite industry
: a look at an almost forgotten industry of Victorian Suffolk
by geologist Bob Markham
The element phosphorous is an essential ingredient of the bones of our skeleton (as calcium phosphate) and which we get from our food. But a field with no phosphate in the soil is incapable of producing grain, peas or beans.

‘Coprolite’ stones were discovered by a clergyman Professor*** on holiday at Felixstowe, Suffolk and their phosphate content was responsible for the local fertiliser industry. The 1840s were a time of shortage of phosphatic manure and ‘soluble’ superphosphate from coprolit was a new and welcoming way to increase the food supply of England.

The industry lasted from about 1847 to 1895, superseded by phosphate from Cambridgeshire, France and South Carolina.

Initially thought to be coprolite (fossil faeces), these nodules from the Suffolk Pliocene age Red Crag were shown to be derived from London clay. It was due to this that the word ‘coprolite’ became the commercial term for these phosphatic nodules. The phosphate mineral is Francolite (Carbonate Fluorapatite); it is enriched by upwelling marine water before precipitation to form phosphatic rock.
***In 1842 the Rev. John Stevens Henslow, a professor of Botany at St John's College, Cambridge, discovered coprolites just outside Felixstowe in the villages of Trimley St Martin, Falkenham and Kirton and investigated their composition. Henslow was appointed the President of the Ipswich Museum in 1850, also the mentor of Charles Darwin, which links Darwin to Ipswich; Arlington’s restaurant has named the Darwin Room after him. See also Street name derivations for Henslow Road.

Realising their potential as a source of available phosphate once they had been treated with sulphuric acid, he patented an extraction process and set about finding new sources. Very soon, coprolites were being mined on an industrial scale for use as fertiliser due to their high phosphate content. The major area of extraction occurred over the east of England, centred on Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely with its refining being carried out in Ipswich. The ‘Manure Manufactory’, as it is shown on 1902 and 1930 maps, stood on the south-western end of Coprolite Street – the site of today’s Neptune Marina apartment block. It was originally set up by Edward Packard, a well-known name in local business and politics. His son, Sir Edward Packard, Junior (1843-1932) developed Packard and James Fison (Thetford) Limited (later known as 'Fisons') into one of the largest fertiliser manufacturing businesses in the country.

Perhaps it’s one of those classic cases where we have all accepted the “fossilised dinosaur dung” source of these phosphatic nodules, mainly because it makes a good story, but the truth is that they develop naturally within clay (they are still turning up at the nearby Brickmakers Wood, see our Brickyards page), so they really should have inverted commas around ‘coprolites’. And the 'Manure Manufactory' is rather misleadingly named.

Coprolite firms in Ipswich
‘About 1880 there were no fewer than five firms operating as manufacturers of artificial manures in the area, all with offices and some with warehouses in Ipswich.
    •    Henry Chapman and Co. had its head office on the Cornhill and works at Bramford;
    •    William Colchester was at Griffin Wharf, on the Stoke side of the Orwell;
    •    Joseph Fison & Co. had works both at Bramford and Ipswich and offices at Eastern Union Mills, close by Stoke Bridge;
    •    Edward Packard & Co. had works at Bramford and offices at Princes Street, Ipswich;
    •    Prentice Bros., whose main works were at Stowmarket, had premises at Flint Wharf, Ipswich.
Three of these firms were eventually to be united under the title of Fison, Packard & Prentice Ltd, and were to become the basis of the world-famous Fisons Ltd which is still firmly based in Suffolk.
R. Malster: Ipswich town on the Orwell (1978)
By 1995 Fisons was being broken up and sold to larger multinationals.]
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Coprolite 1   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Coprolite 22018 images
The above examples of coprolite were two of many found near the surface of the scarp at Brickmakers Wood (see Links), to the south-west of Alexandra Park. This is the area close to Coprolite Street where clay was dug for the brick and tile works after which the Potteries area was named; you can see the location of Brickmakers Wood on that page.

[UPDATE 26.6.2019: GeoSuffolk, the group studying and communicating the geology of the county (see Links) have published a leaflet about Coprolites (click to view the PDF).

Grimwade Memorial Hall
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwade Hall 22013 images  Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwade Hall, 1980s 41980s image courtesy of The Ipswich Society
At the junction of Back Hamlet and Fore Hamlet sits the former 19th century Grimwade Memorial Hall, since the 2006 conversion it is 35 flats. The 1980s photograph, above, comes from The Ipswich Society's Image Archive (see Links); note the way in which an attractive gothic-style church building had been disfigured by the rather brutal side-wings with a flat-roofed canopy between. Beneath the canopy, part of a sign reads 'COME ON IN', presumably promoting services or meetings within. In the foreground in the rather slope-y Duke Street roundabout which enabled 'the traffic to keep moving' but also resulted in the death of a cyclist and perillous crossing of surrounding roads by pedestrians. This junction is now traffic-light controlled.
A fair bit of demolition and remodelling of the Grimwade Memorial Hall elevation in 2006 has transformed the scene here.

For a note about its original purpose, see our St Clement Congregational Church page. The restored building carries lettering tablets old and new, plus an attractive stonework doorway, both on the Fore Hamlet pavement.
Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwade Hall 1
   Ipswich Historic Lettering: Grimwade Hall 3
30th NOVEMBER 2006


The Grimwade name has been closely associated with Ipswich for more than a century, with the family providing four mayors and running a department store on the Cornhill, which closed in1995. The Grimwade name can be also found on Hope House.
See also our Fore Street 1620 page for an 1881 map of the area and The Steampacket Inn.

See our Street name derivations for the nearby Grimwade Street.

Related pages:
Christie's warehouse
Bridge Street
Burton Son & Sanders / Paul's

College Street
Cranfield's Flour Mill

Custom House
Trinity House buoy
Edward Fison Ltd
Ground-level dockside furniture on: 'The island', the northern quays and Ransome's Orwell Works
Ipswich Whaling Station?
Isaac Lord

Neptune Inn clock, garden and interior
Isaac Lord 2
The Island
John Good and Sons
Merchant seamen's memorial
The Mill

Nova Scotia House
New Cut East
Quay nameplates
The Question Mark
R&W Paul malting company
Steam Packet Hotel

Stoke Bridge(s)
Waterfront Regeneration Scheme
Wolsey's Gate
A chance to compare
Wet Dock 1970s with 2004
Wet Dock maps

Davy's illustration of the laying of the Wet Dock lock foundation stone, 1839
Outside the Wet Dock
Maritime Ipswich '82 festival

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