The ‘strange, unusual and humorous’ side of life in 19th century Epping Forest has been rediscovered in recent years with a treasure trove of sketches.

The whimsical depictions of everyday life in the district are by Octavius Dixie Deacon, born in 1836 in the East End of London before moving to Loughton in the 1870s.

Largely attracted to the area by its rural nature, he quickly gained an appreciation of its local characters and immortalised them in his whimsical sketches.

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, he married Louisa Anna Horncastle and they initially lived in Stoke Newington before moving to Loughton in 1874, settling at 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, now demolished.

Throughout his time in Loughton, Deacon filled a number of sketch books while also serving as a common councilman of the City of London for 11 years.

His sketches were collected in The Life and Art of Octavius Dixie Deacon in 2010, a book authored by local historians Chris Pond and Richard Morris.

Mr Pond said: “They show a side of life in Loughton and the area that we would never see without them.

“Certainly he is unique in this area, it all adds to the heritage.”

Showing everyday characters, his favourite pubs and buildings and traditional tableaus such as sledging in Upper Park, Deacon’s work now forms a rich part of the area’s heritage.

Epping Forest District Museum manager Tony O’Connor said: “We have got the view of some of the buildings and the people – a whole range of characters.

“It is such a valuable record for us.

“We can compare them to other sketches… from an earlier period and all of this really helps us see how life was changing in the town in the 19th century.”

The museum now owns a number of the original sketches after they were auctioned following the death of family member Doris Deacon in 1998.

A year after the book was published, family members in France and Surrey contacted the museum with yet more sketch books, further cementing Deacon as an accomplished and insightful recorder of everyday life.

He was known as something of an eccentric, said Mr Pond, with regular letters sent to The Times on odd or defunct subject matters.

The writer said: “He certainly had decided views.

“For instance, in a modern way, he railed against the City Corporation for giving lavish banquets for unworthy people.

“He also wrote calling for the reinstating of the system of turnpikes, or toll roads, 40 years after they had been abolished.

“He was a bit of an oddity in that way.”

It is this side of Deacon’s character that perhaps gave his sketches their humorous and light-hearted slant, allowing them a unique place in the history of Epping Forest.

Mr Pond said: “It is a perspective that we would not have had otherwise.

“He tried to show the whimsical side of life - the strange, the unusual, the humorous.”