The Perils of the Vono lagoon

I have outlined the history of this former neighbouring lagoon to Rattlechain HERE. Formed as a figure of eight shape pool by the merger of the former Samuel Barnett Stour valley brickwork pit and The Groveland colliery pit, it subsequently became  “a tipping area” like Rattlechain- in this case for waste arising from the VONO furniture and bedding mattress manufacturers.


One can appreciate, that at this point in post war Britain there existed “adventure playgrounds” , as vividly recalled by Malcolm Edge, who also remembers The Vono pool. But these were very dangerous times. The Rattlechain lagoon fatality was not the only death- The Vono lagoon also had drownings as evidenced by newspaper articles of the time.

Two lagoons- VONO at top , and Rattlechain below.

The Birmingham Daily Gazette of 9th July 1957 reported on the opening day of an inquest into the death of 12 year old Dennis Clarke of Coneygree Road Tipton. It appears that he and his friends had been swimming at the Vono Lagoon- “off Tipton road” before  he drowned.


A report from the following day in the same paper fills out the story. Dennis Clarke drowned in 8 feet of water at the named “Vono pool”- a disused marlhole. A verdict of “accidental death” was recorded by coroner Frank Cooper. Having claimed that two of his friends attempted to save him, the article also mentions that Cooper would be writing to the Vono company about erecting signs.

I think the criticism of two elder youths who it is claimed were at the scene but “slunk off” and did not jump in to “save” the drowning boy is totally misplaced. They did not invite the three youths to go into the water to start with;who did so at their own misadventure. It is also possible that they couldn’t swim themselves- and were rightly not prepared to risk their own safety for the foolhardy actions of those who were out of their depth. Unfortunately this takes the edge from the story- which should really have been about the foolish risks of swimming in such a dangerous place- and the limitations of a company who had not adequately secured their site from the obvious risk. I very much doubt that any life saving equipment was located near the pool at this point in history.

If the two youths had dived in to attempt to save Dennis Clarke- there may well have been more fatalities that day.


A dangerous unfenced magnet for local youths

As though to demonstrate the dangers of amateurs attempting to rescue others, the article from 24th August 1973 Birmingham Daily Post illustrates this perfectly- with another fatality at the Vono lagoon. By this point in history, the pool had vastly reduced in size, having been infilled due to the expansion of the rolling mill that had been built at the rear of the site. See this picture from 1971.

Arthur Stockford is named as the man who had drowned after attempting to save an eight year old who had fallen into the pool. The boy was rescued by his mother, who could not save the other man from drowning.


The 15th September report on the inquest tells how the 48 year old was a poor swimmer and the circumstances of how the boy ended up in the pool were not clear.

These two articles thus show how this site like Rattlechain lagoon were a very real danger to children as well as those who bravely  attempted to save them from drowning. Unfortunately every year youths and some adults still drown in open water in disused marlholes and open water, but it is their own foolhardy folly in doing so. Some lessons from history never seem to be learnt.

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