It was certainly a surprising and impressive sight - but not as uncommon as you'd think. Elephants once roamed the streets of Sussex, paraded by their owners to the delight of children and adults alike.

The majestic creatures, far from their natural habitats, were pictured several times in the county, from Brighton railway station to Bognor beach.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, travelling circuses were hugely popular and large crowds would gather, eager to see the gentle giants.

Circus owners would parade them through towns and let them exercise on beaches.

In 1890, elephants from Sanger's circus, one of the most well-known at the time, were pictured having a bath on Bognor beach.

In July 1989, early-morning swimmers were taken by surprise as they went for their daily dip at Lancing beach. They looked up to see what appeared to be a long grey pipe - which started to swirl around in the air before a five-tonne elephant appeared from the water.

The 21-year-old Indian elephant caused quite a splash after taking a break from performing in Gerry Cottle’s Circus on Lancing beach Green.

Decades prior, circa 1935, Nellie the elephant was caught on camera leaving Brighton Station to go to the Hippodrome.

While the animals brought joy to many, they were also involved in tragic incidents.

In November 1926, the body of a baby elephant was found on Worthing beach. It was transported on a ship and washed up after the vessel sank off Kent.

A statue of the small elephant has been installed on the beach to remember him.

Circuses also attracted protests – some of which turned violent, former Argus news editor Ben James previously wrote.

In May 1987, an Argus photographer was on hand to capture clashes between circus staff and protesters in Crawley.

It was a scene common across the county, particularly in the 1980s, as protesters tried to persuade councils to ban the arrival of animal circuses.

In 1987, Brighton’s council did just that when it turned down an application to bring an animal circus to town. A heated debate in the council chamber followed, in which then-Conservative councillor Frank Masefield Baker argued that there was nothing cruel about it.

Councillor Frances Hix, then Liberal Democrat leader, responded: “I don’t think a former owner of Brighton abattoir is the best person to speak about cruelty to animals.”

In February 1957, Hove Council’s reason for banning the circus was somewhat different. The Argus reported from a council meeting in which members said the circus would damage the turf in Hove Park and ruin the outfield ahead of the cricket season.

The use of wild animals in circuses is now banned under the Wild Animals in Circuses Act 2019.