THE Life, times, and works of a singular artist are celebrated in a new book of sketches and drawings, reporter EDMUND TOBIN discovered

OCTAVIUS Dixie Deacon was born in 1836 in Bow in the East End of London but moved to Loughton in the 1870s.

He was largely attracted to the area by its then rural nature, but quickly also gained an appreciation of its local characters: the old gent who had come down in the world, the keeper of geese near Epping equipped with a large butcher's knife, and the Loughton grocer who sped about in his pony trap as if in a race.

It was these local figures who would form the basis of many of the sketches made by Deacon which are recorded in the new book The Life and Art of Octavius Dixie Deacon, which also details his colourful life.

Deacon's father Samuel owned one of the first advertising agencies in the country, Deacon and Co, and the family moved around the north-east of London throughout the 1820s and 1830s.

By 1851 they were housed in Gascoyne Road, in Hackney were Samuel's occupation was listed as coffee-house keeper.

The young Deacon's first job was as a clerk with the Eastern Counties Railway and he later worked as a lithographer and printer.

On August 22, 1868, Deacon married Louisa Anna Horncastle and they initially lived in Stoke Newington.

They moved to Loughton in 1874 and first rented the White House in what is now Church Close.

After a further move to Goldings Road, the family eventually settled in Upper Park in a large house on the corner of Nursery Road which has now been demolished.

Although a notable figure in public life as a man who served 11 years as a common councilman of the City of London, Deacon's greatest contribution to Loughton is the historical sketch books he left behind.

Within them 19th century rural Loughton is brought back to life.

Among the subjects he drew are the old smithy, in Church Hill, sledging in Upper Park, and the cottages near what became the Methodist Church.

Away from his sketches, Deacon also designed books and Christmas cards and was a regular correspondent to The Times, his first letter to the publication being on the destruction of songbirds in Epping Forest.

In later years, Deacon became known for his eccentric behaviour which included a campaign for erecting monuments to Thomas Newcomen and James Watt, the pioneers of steam power, and prodigious letter writing to learned bodies such as the Royal Society as well as the Epping Gazette, and the future prime minister Arthur Balfour.

Deacon died on December 12, 1916 in the private mental hospital at Brooke House Clapton and was buried in unconsecrated ground alongside the main path in Loughton Town Cemetery, in Church Lane.

In April 1998, one of his last relatives Doris died at the age of 94 and an auction was hold of Deacon's sketches and watercolours.

Although initially sold to a Staffordshire dealer, they were subsequently bought by Epping Forest District Museum with the aid of a grant, and it intends to hold an exhibition of them later this month.

The book The Life and Art of Octavius Dixie Deacon, by Chris Pond and Richard Morris, can be bought for £7.50 from the Loughton Book Shop, Epping Forest District Museum, or direct from the Loughton and District Historical Society on 020 8508 2361.