Duleep Singh & The Elephants Who Hated Sand

For years an image has circulated around Whitby (and now, the internet) that shows two elephants standing on the sand at Whitby, but where did this image come from?

It is believed that the elephants belonged to one of Whitby’s most famous past residents;


Duleep Singh

Duleep Singh. Born in 1838; Singh was the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire, he became Maharajah of his empire at five years old, though knowing that this was too young for a child to have power his mother ruled in his name. Duleep Singh went from place to place under the wing of a British doctor, but after Singh’s mother was imprisoned the Maharaja was deposed and he moved to Britain.

In 1858 Duleep took up residence in Mulgrave Castle. Duleep was well known for being extremely extravagant, he was so popular that he became a frequent guest of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert (there are even famous sketches of him playing with the Queen’s children). He would entertain people with lavish parties and entertainment, and held some of those parties in his castle.

It is believed that to travel to Whitby Duleep Singh and his retinue would use two elephants, at one time they would walk along the beach but Duleep noticed that the elephants seemed distressed when the sand would rub in-between their toes. Being a caring man Duleep ordered that a road be built between Sandsend and Whitby so that his


The famous image that has had many questions surrounding it.

elephants would have a more comfortable journey.

And, allegedly, the road between Sandsend and Whitby was made and used years in the future, though it’s original use was to make the journey for two elephants more enjoyable.


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