SELBY, a market and parish-town, in the wapentake of Barkston-Ash, a part in the liberty of St. Peter; 8 miles from Snaith, 10 from Howden, 11 from Ferrybridge, 12½ from Tadcaster, 14 from Pontefract, 15 from York, 18 from Market Weighton, 20 from Leeds, 183 from London. Market, Monday. Fairs, Easter Tuesday; the Monday after Boroughbridge Barnabas Fair, and old Michaelmas day, for horses, horned cattle, sheep, &c., the horse show commences September 20, and ends on the 26th; Line Fairs are on every Thursday six weeks, from Michaelmas to Saint Peter's day, old style. Bankers, Messrs. Scholfield, Clarkson, and Co. draw on Messrs. Spooner, and Co. 27, Gracechurch Street Principal Inns, George, and Kings Head. Pop. 4,097. The Church, peculiar, is a vicarage, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Germain, in the deanry of the Ainsty, value, p.r. !£101. Patron, the Archbishop of York.
This place is situated on the west bank of the Ouse, over which is a fine Draw Bridge, which facilitates the communication with the East Riding. This Bridge, though near seventy tons weight, can be opened and shut in the short space of one minute. Selby, is in all probability, the ancient Salebeia, a name which denotes a Roman origin. History, however, has not marked the era of its foundation, nor preserved any authentic documents of its state in the times preceding the Norman conquest; but as it appears to have been a place of some note at that period, it was probably built by the Saxons, on a Roman foundation. The ancient and famous Abbey, which was once the chief ornament and glory of Selby, was founded by William the Conqueror, in 1069, for Benedictines, and dedicated to St. Mary, and St. Germains. In the following year, that Monarch coming to Selby, to settle the endowment, his Queen, by whom he was accompanied, was here delivered of a son, who was afterwards King of England, by the name of Henry I. And it was probably on that account, that the Abbey of Selby was favoured by the succeeding Kings, his descendants, with great privileges, as well as adorned with magnificent buildings. The Abbots of Selby, and of St. Mary's at York, were the only two mitred Abbots, north of the Trent. This Monastery flourished in great splendour till the time of the dissolution, when its revenues amounted to £729. 12s. 1¼d according to Dugdale; or £819. 2s. 6d. --Speed. It was surrendered by Robert de Selby, the last Abbot, 30th of Henry VIII, in 1539, and was granted about two years afterwards to Sir Ralph Sadler, in consideration of £736. paid down, and a rent of £3. 10s. 8d. per ann.
The remains of the Abbey church show it to here been a most noble Gothic building, erected at different times, and in different styles of architecture. The nave appears to be the most ancient part: the choir is a newer erection. In 1690, the steeple fell down, and did great injury to the south end of the transept, and the roof of the western part of the south aisle. At what time the present steeple was erected, it is difficult to ascertain, but it appears to have been in the early part of the last century. From the appearance of the west end of the church, which, with the porch, is deserving of particular notice, Mr. Burton seems to think, that "it was intended to have three towers, a large one in the middle of the church, and two smaller ones at the west end."
The conventual church of Selby, was made parochial by letters patent, dated 20th March, 1618, the 16th James I. and a minister was thereunto nominated and appointed by the Archbishop of York.
Selby is a tolerably well built town, where there is a manufactory for Sailcloth, an Iron foundry, and a good Ship yard, where are built a great number of vessels from 50 to 800 tons burthen. The trade of Selby has considerably increased of late years, by means of a canal from the Ouse to the Aire and Calder. A navigation is opened between Leeds and Selby, by which this place become the loading and unloading port of the West Riding, and to which it may be said to be the key from the German Ocean. A Branch Custom House has been lately established here, by the lords of the Treasury, from which vessels can clear out direct to any part of the kingdom: upwards of 500 vessels with cargoes, clear coastwise from hence every year; and the Steam Packets that ply between Hull and Selby occasion an influx of company hitherto unprecedented in this place.
Here is an Hospital for 6 or 7 poor Widows, and a School with residence for the Master, who teaches the poor children, both founded by Mr. Leonard Chamberlain, time unknown; Rent charges for their support about £21. 12s. per ann.
Here was born Thomas Johnson, a botanist, who published the first local catalogue of Plants in England. In the rebellion he took up arms for the King: and when at Oxford, was created Doctor of Physic. In the army he held the rank of Colonel and was killed in a Skirmish in 1644.
[Description(s) edited from various 19th century sources by Colin Hinson © 2013]