Selby Castle

Has been described as a Possible Timber Castle (Other/Unknown)

There are no visible remains

NameSelby Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryYorkshire
Modern AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
1974 AuthorityNorth Yorkshire
Civil ParishSelby

Henry de Lacy built a castle at Selby soon after 1143, it was besieged within a week of the commencement of building. (PastScape ref. Historia Selebiensis monasterii; Renn)

According to the author of the Historia Selebiensis monasterii, in 1143 a kinsman of Henry of Lacy and former soldier, Elais Paynel, was elected abbot of Selby and went on to distinguished himself by defending the estates of his abbey during a disastrous war which overran the region. The fighting began when Henry of Lacy, who held an extensive lordship centred on Pontefract immediately to the north and west of the abbey, 'after taking counsel from (Elias), began to build a castle at Selby. A week had not passed before Count William of Aumale, who was in contention with Henry, learnt of this and hurried to lay siege to the castle which was in the course of construction.' After a siege of several days William's forces captured the castle and proceeded to plunder the surrounding countryside. The war is most likely to have taken place shortly after Henry of Lacy's succession to the honour of Pontefract in c. 1142, and the earl of York's involvement is probably to be explained by his territorial ambitions. Situated on the Ouse, Selby castle threatened not only the trading ships on their way to York, but also the earl's hundredal amnor of Howden and archiepiscopal wapentake manor of Sherburn in Elmet which he aimed to control. Several estates belonging to Sherburn, including land in Selby itself, were already held of the archbishop by the abbot of Selby, and were under the de facto control of Henry of Lacy. (Dalton)

Gatehouse Comments

The rapid construction must mean this was a timber and earthwork castle although the besieging during construction may well mean little work was done. Presumably near the River Ouse and the abbey, possibly north of the Abbey where the Ouse and the Selby Dam stream would have provided some natural defence. However, no archaeological or placename evidence for a location.

- Philip Davis

Not scheduled

Not Listed

Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSE615325
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  • Hass, Jeffrey D., 2006, Medieval Selby A new study of the Abbey and Town (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Occasional Paper 4) p. 10-11, 72
  • Turner, Maurice, 2004, Yorkshire Castles: Exploring Historic Yorkshire (Otley: Westbury Publishing) p. 246
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles and Tower Houses of Yorkshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 88
  • Dalton, Paul, 1994, Conquest, Anarchy and Lordship: Yorkshire, 1066-1154 p. 171 (Cambridge University PRess) online copy
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 530
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 308

Primary Sources

  • Fowler, J.T. (ed), 1891, 'Historia Selebiensis monasterii' in The Coucher Book of Selby (Yorkshire Archaeological Society Record Series 10) Vol. 1 p. 33-9


  • Constable, Christopher, 2003, Aspects of the archaeology of the castle in the north of England C 1066-1216 (Doctoral thesis, Durham University) Available at Durham E-Theses Online