With no running water or electricity and lumps of wood for furniture, it was hardly a luxurious lifestyle. But Arthur Hooper is proud to be one of the last living bothy boys.

He is one of a long-forgotten group of bachelor gardeners who spent their working lives living in primitive dwellings called bothies, which were often no better than hovels, on the grand estates they tended.

Arthur spent 11 years before the Second World War living in tiny, ramshackle cottages across the country with up to six other gardeners.

Determined the bothy boys should not be forgotten, Arthur spent 20 years recording his memoirs and they have now been published in his first book, called Life in the Gardeners' Bothy.

Arthur, who lives at Red Oaks, the Gardeners Royal Benevolent Society's retirement home in Henfield, said: "I started writing because I wanted my grandchildren to know about how I lived. It is a piece of social history which will never be repeated."

Arthur and his fellow bothy dwellers were a community governed by its own strict rules, including a ban on all women entering the premises.

There was often no running water and the boys had to use buckets to have a bath and candles or oil lamps for light.

They perfected the art of poaching game and rabbits from the estates.

Arthur said: "People living in bothies were single young men and no women could cross the threshold. Once, my mother came to see me and I had to go outside to talk to her!

"Some of the bothies were pretty awful but some were quite good. In the worst, there were six of us living there and inside there was a table, four chairs and two lumps of wood. The head gardener used to say that if we wanted to get comfortable, we could come out in the garden and get comfortable doing some work!"

Arthur lived at six bothies around the country, including Norman Court in Hampshire, owned by the American sewing machine magnate Mr Singer, and Gatton Park in Reigate, owned by the Colman's mustard family.

It was a hard life but Arthur, who left school at 14 to follow in the footsteps of his father to become a gardener, does not regret in for one minute.

He said: "There was very strict discipline and you had to work from 6.30am to 5.30pm, 365 days a year. Even in the bothy, there was a strict hierarchy with the foreman sitting at the head of the table and the next in line sitting by him.

"But it was a good life. I was making a living doing my hobby and it was what I wanted to do. You had all the bothy chaps your own age with you and we would tell stories and pass the time playing whist and darts.

"It was a community of bothy lads."

Arthur will be signing copies of his book at Rushfields Garden Centre, in Henfield Road, Poynings, from 11am to 1pm on Saturday.