Traditionally said to be the birthplace of King Henry I, youngest son of
William the Conqueror, the busy market town of Selby is situated 12 miles
south of York, in England's largest county, North Yorkshire. The Selby
district makes up most of the flat, highly fertile Vale of York, which
continues to be an important agricultural region.
But the immediate landscape of Selby is dominated by the presence of three
enormous power stations. The stations are primarily run with coal from the
nearby Selby coal fields, which were discovered only in 1967. The largest
of the stations is Drax, the biggest coal-fired power station in Western
Europe. Drax consumes coal at a rate of 36,000 tons per day, and each of
Drax's 12 cooling towersfor which the River Ouse supplies a vast quantity
of water each dayis taller than London's renowned St. Paul's Cathedral.
The town of Selby does retain a great deal of its ancient character as well.
It is believed to have been founded by the Danes, who sailed up the River
Ouse, pillaging and burning riverside settlements, although there are no
such written records.
The Ouse also played a crucial part in one of Selby's most colorful legends.
The story involves Benedict of Auxerre, a monk who in the year 1069 had a
vision of a place where one day a great abbey would stand. Years later he
was sailing up the River Ouse when suddenly three swans settled on the water
and Benedict recognized the area as the one he'd seen in his vision. He
planted a cross and staked his claim. After Benedict had claimed his plot of
land, the actual building work for the abbey was initiated by the second
abbot, Hugh de Lacy. The town prospered under the power and influence of the
abbey, but, like Forde Abbey in Dorset,
Selby Abbey suffered decline after King Henry VIII decreed the dissolution of
England's major monasteries in 1539.
Today, the famous abbey still lies at the heart of the town, having watched
over Selby for nearly a thousand years. A popular tourist attraction for its
fabulous stained glass, the abbey's most famous feature is the 14th-century
"Washington window," so called for John de Washington, who was a prior in the
region. And several hundred years further down on his family tree, another
notable Washington emergednamed Georgewho became a founding father of the
"New World" and America's most legendary national hero. The family crest of
stars and stripes, which can be seen in the Washington window, went on to serve
as a basis for the American flag.
To learn more about Selby and North Yorkshire, visit: www.northyorks.gov.uk/weddings/selby.shtml