I WAS intrigued by the excellent article on the old house at Gospel Oak (Bugle, November 7 edition) which was at one time the Hoo Arms.
I was born and raised in that part of Bilston Road a few houses along from the old house. As I grew up it was lived in by Mr and Mrs Haywood and their daughters Margaret and Joyce. The house was always a bit of a mystery to me.
Entering the back door you walked on large stone slabs in a scullery area, much like the kitchens in old farmhouses. The house was built below the current road level, obviously on the level of an old road or track, probably before the road became a turnpike. Neither I nor our neighbours nor friends had ever heard of the house as a pub. It was a real surprise. Our pub was Mother Shiptons (Shippys) on the corner of Bilston Road, Tipton.
The other attraction to us kids was the presence of Harold Harris, who I think lived with the Haywoods and may have been a relative. Harold, was in later years, I believe, the partner of artist Pat Arnett who lived in the house, and they both used to paint and draw as they travelled widely. Harold, who worked at the Gasworks I think, had a damaged eye caused by an industrial accident, but his main attraction to us as children was his love and knowledge of nature and his fantastic ability to carve decorative walking sticks. They were superb.
Whenever we could we would join Harold on his walks across the old pit banks opposite the old house. Harold would identify the birds on the old pit pools and we would inevitably end up in the grounds of Moxley Sanitorium which was not permitted so was pretty exciting. Harold would show us foxholes and spend time spotting the birds on the small lakes in the grounds. If we were really lucky, one of us could carry one of Harold's sticks which we did proudly.
Some 20 or so years ago, while my mum still lived in Bilston Road, I went to visit Pat who was living in the house after Harold had died. I had never known she was an internationally recognised artist and I am sure my mum did not know either. Pat was very modest. The house was still its intriguing self, almost as it was when I was a youngster. Pat drew my portrait as I sat and I still have that rolled up somewhere among my many papers.
It was great to see the house unmasked and it would have been good to preserve it as a historic house, though I guess no one has the money these days. It was also good to see that Pat is still going strong.
Professor Terry Langford,
14 Milford Court, Church Hill,
Milford on Sea, Lymington,