Festive shoppers watched in amazement as Santa swept into the city in a regal carriage.

Father Christmas made his entrance to Brighton and Hove in the vehicle, which was pulled by horses Henry and Henrietta.

The animals, with red and purple plumes of feathers on their heads, delighted children who pointed and waved as they passed.

The seasonal spectacle was a magical moment for crowds who had come to the city to start their Christmas shopping.

Santa appeared in Castle Square, Brighton, with a sack of gifts and two candy walking sticks poking out of the top. He took his position in the carriage with Alva Evans at the reins and Tim Parrington as her escort, dressed as an officer in the Hussars.

The carriage slowly made its way past shoppers in North Street, Bond Street, Church Street and Portland Street during a two-hour journey which culminated in an appearance outside The Gingerbread House in Middle Street at 2pm, where a grotto has been established.

As Santa dismounted, fake snow started to fall as tourists took snaps.

Penny Hanson, 35, from Portslade, said: "I couldn't believe it when he came along."

One of the first visitors was Alan Prangnell, of City College Brighton and Hove, who helped to design Santa's kingdom.

Queues soon formed outside the grotto, which has been transformed into a winter wonderland inside.

Six-year-old Hannah Bettey was one of the first to meet Santa and told him she wanted a pogo stick for Christmas.

Santa will be at The Gingerbread House, sponsored by Legal and General, until Christmas Eve.

The grotto is open from 10.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, and 10am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday.

The cost is £3.75 per child, with proceeds donated to The Argus Appeal, which distributes cash among the needy in Sussex.

*The Argus Appeal would like to thank the following people for their invaluable help in bringing the Gingerbread project together: Sue and Pietro Addis; Paul Fowler; Paul Johnston; Gavin Nettleton and the team at the University of Brighton; Steve Blunt, Alan Prangnell and all the teams at City College Brighton and Hove; Claire Byrd, Niall Oakley and Mike James of Seeboard; David Panter and Jonathan Fortune of Brighton and Hove City Council; Tony Mernagh and Mary Carruthers of the City Centre Forum; Tony Caplin and Gerry Drury of Greg Stone Carpets; Des Pywowar; Adam Adams Carrier Bags Ltd; Mandie Brame and the team at Decoram; Jane Curry and Peter Walker and the team at Brighton Music Service; Colin Thomas and Tony Benham at EPS; Anne Verrall, Mary and Ernest Wallace, David and Rosina Heathcote; Annette Barnard; John Boath from BAV; Carol Barnes; Kerry Kyriacou and Evan Murphie from Earthly Artifacts; Terry Burns; Andy Lang of Languard Alarms; East Sussex Fire Brigade; Legal and General and Dave, John, Ian and Alan, who form the maintenance team at The Argus.