SELBY, Sir George (1556/7-1625), of Oatmarket, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumb. and Winlaton, co. Dur.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1604-1629, ed. Andrew Thrush and John P. Ferris, 2010
Available from Cambridge University Press



1614 - 9 Apr. 1614

Family and Education

b. 1556/7, 1st s. of William Selby†, mercer and alderman of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and Elizabeth, da. and coh. of Gerard Fenwick of Newcastle-upon-Tyne; bro. of Sir William II*. m. by 1593, Margaret, da. of Sir John Selby of Branxton, Northumb. and Twizell, co. Dur., 5s. d.v.p., 6da.1 kntd. 23 July 1603.2 suc. fa. 1613.3 d. 30 Mar. 1625, aged 68.4 sig. George Selbye.

Offices Held

Freeman, Merchant Adventurers’ Co., Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1589, gov. 1600, 1606, 1611, 1622;5 sheriff, Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1594-5, alderman by 1600-?d. mayor, 1600-1, 1606-7, 1611-12, 1622-3;6 member, Hostmen’s Co., Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1600, beadle 1600-at least 1611, gov. 1601, 1607, 1612, 1616;7 commr. piracy, co. Dur. 1603-10, Cumbs. 1603-14, Northumb., 1604-14, Westmld. 1614, cart-taking, Northumb. 1605, oyer and terminer, Northern circ. 1607-d.;8 j.p. co. Dur. 1608-9, Northumb. 1608-14;9 sheriff, Northumb. 1607-8, co. Dur. 1608-24;10 commr. aid, Northumbs. and Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1609;11 freeman, Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumb. by 1615, member, Council of Twelve 1615;12 commr. subsidy, Northumb. and Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1621-2, 1624.13


On his tomb, Selby claimed to have ‘sprung from the ancient and illustrious family of the Selbys of Selby in the county of York’. His family’s connections with Newcastle began in around 1500 with William Selby, who served as sheriff. William’s son became an alderman, while his grandson served as mayor, and subsequently MP for the town in 1572. The family also claimed kinship with Odinel Selby†, who arrived in Berwick-upon-Tweed under Henry VIII, and whose descendants settled at Twizell, Branxton and other nearby manors.14

Sir George Selby’s father was one of the original contractors of the 1583 Grand Lease of the Gateshead and Newburn coalmines, the exploitation of which made vast fortunes for the handful of merchants who took charge of what was undoubtedly the most lucrative industrial concern of the age. Oligarchic control of the trade was cemented by the chartering of the Hostmen’s Company in 1600, of which Selby and his father were founder members, and when the Company first established quotas for the trade in 1603, father and son were assigned 16,500 tons, just under 9 per cent of annual output. It is thus hardly surprising that Selby made a prestigious match with his relatives, the Selbys of Twizell, acquired substantial estates in county Durham, was knighted at the coronation in 1603, and was returned as borough MP in both 1601 and 1604.15

In the 1604-10 Parliament Selby was overshadowed by the town’s other MP, Henry Chapman, a much more senior alderman who had played a key role in securing the Hostmen’s charter. Selby made no recorded speeches, but was named to a handful of committees. The only one of any general significance was that for the bill to confirm Exchequer decrees fixing entry fines for copyholders on Crown lands (31 Mar. 1610), although two others, the bill for ‘shipping and mariners’ (28 Feb. 1610) and an estate bill for the cousins of alderman William Jenison* of Newcastle (22 Feb. 1610) had local implications.16 However, Selby and Chapman also worked hard behind the scenes to further their town’s business interests: they clearly lobbied for the rejection of a 1604 bill intended to repeal the statute of 21 Henry VIII which formed the legal basis for the Hostmen’s monopoly, voted down at its second reading on 30 May; and in 1606 they persuaded Robert Cecil†, 1st earl of Salisbury to quash a similar bill in the Lords.17 At the same time they joined MPs for Hull and York in promoting a bill to confirm a discount on customs for northern cloth, which had been granted in 1592 but was disallowed by the new customs farmers. The bill stalled in the Lords, but a joint petition to Salisbury later secured the restoration of the concession.18 On 15 Nov. 1610 Selby, Chapman and alderman Thomas Riddell* were commissioned to lobby Parliament and the Privy Council on the Hostmen’s behalf, but as the parliamentary session was prorogued shortly thereafter the three men probably achieved little, if they reached London at all.19

In 1608, having just completed his shrieval year in Northumberland, Selby was appointed sheriff of Durham. This position, unlike that in most counties, was permanent, and consequently Selby’s return as knight of the shire for Northumberland in 1614 technically breached medieval election statutes, which forbade the return of sheriffs. The hustings at Alnwick was organized on a shamelessly partisan basis by Sir George’s brother-in-law, sheriff Sir Ralph Selby of Twizell, who avoided a contest by refusing to take cognizance of any freeholder not prepared to support his relative, thus ignoring the presence of a substantial body of support for a rival candidate, Sir Ralph Grey* of Chillingham. Complaints were voiced in the Commons on 8 Apr. 1614, and the following day the case was reported by Sir George More, who noted irregularities in the poll, Selby’s questionable status and the latter’s lack of freehold or residence in Northumberland. The last two points were discounted, and Sir Edwin Sandys observed that the relevant election statute might not apply in this case for two reasons. The first was that in Durham the sheriff was appointed by the bishop, not the king; the second was that the purpose of the statute was not ‘to restrain the election of sheriffs’ but to prevent a sheriff from returning himself, which in this instance had not happened. However, Sir George Selby’s return was rejected, and Sir Ralph Selby was summoned to explain himself.20 The Selbys eloquently expressed their indignation at this verdict by procuring the return of Sir George’s brother Sir William Selby II* at the resulting election.

Sir George Selby continued to serve as sheriff of Durham until 1624, which rendered him ineligible for election to Parliament, but he remained active in local affairs. In 1616 he and Thomas Riddell were sent to lobby the Privy Council for revocation of a patent for the survey of Newcastle coals, which usurped one of the Hostmen’s own functions, but they only managed to delay its implementation by some weeks. Noting their departure, alderman Sir Henry Anderson* privately carped that Riddell was a recusant, and Selby a cynic, ‘of the religion the king is of, whatsoever that may be’. However, as a senior alderman, Selby hosted King James during his progress to Scotland in April 1617, a distinction later recorded on his tombstone.21 One of the issues raised during the 1614 Northumberland election dispute was the enfranchisement of county Durham, and while a draft bill was lost at the dissolution, the summons of another Parliament in November 1620 led Selby and Timothy Comyn, mayor of Durham, to circulate a petition calling for the enfranchisement of the county and city. Bishop Neile proved amenable, and the resulting bill passed both Houses in 1621. However, it was lost at the dissolution, and again in 1624, when it was vetoed by the king.22

Selby drafted his will on 18 Dec. 1624, granting his mansion house in Newcastle to his brother Sir William, while his youngest brother Charles inherited other lands in the town and his quarter share of a lease of Elswick colliery. His wife received a generous jointure provision, his two unmarried daughters dowries of 2,000 marks apiece, while his six daughters and various grandchildren shared cash bequests of £3,000. His inventory valued his estate at almost £10,000, including £1,200 in cash and £1,500 in coal. He died on 30 Mar. 1625, and was buried in a vault in St. Nicholas’, Newcastle, where his wife erected a tomb proclaiming ‘his splendid and ever-abounding style of living’. His main estates passed to his brother Sir William.23

Ref Volumes: 1604-1629

Author: Simon Healy


  • 1. Surtees, Hist. co. Palatine Dur. ii. 274; Durham Vis. Peds. ed. J. Foster, 283; DURH 3/189/142.
  • 2. Shaw, Knights of Eng. ii. 115.
  • 3. Surtees, ii. 274.
  • 4. DURH 3/189/142.
  • 5. Newcastle Freemen ed. M.H. Dodds (Newcastle-upon-Tyne rec. soc. iii), 4; Northumbs. RO, ZAN/M13/B34.
  • 6. Northumbs. RO, ZAN/M13/B34.
  • 7. Recs. Co. Hostmen ed. F.W. Dendy (Surtees Soc. cv), 242-7, 263, 266.
  • 8. C181/1, ff. 89, 114; 181/2, ff. 50v, 219, 215v; 181/3, f. 189v.
  • 9. C181/2, ff. 65, 81v; SP14/33, f. 48; C66/1988.
  • 10. List of Sheriffs comp. A. Hughes (PRO, L. and I. ix), 42a, 99; DURH 20/103.
  • 11. E179/283, ‘commrs. for the aid’.
  • 12. Berwick RO, B1/9, pp. 9, 28.
  • 13. C212/22/21-3.
  • 14. R. Welford, Hist. Newcastle and Gateshead, 266-7; Surtees, ii. 274-5; Durham Vis. Peds. ed. Foster, 283.
  • 15. J. Hatcher, Hist. Brit. Coal Industry, 514-16; Recs. Co. Hostmen, 44-5.
  • 16. CJ, i. 397-8, 402a, 417a.
  • 17. Ibid. 208a, 228b; J.U. Nef, Rise of the Brit. Coal Industry, ii. 128; CSP Dom. 1603-10, p. 285.
  • 18. Hull RO, L.159-60; Hatfield House, Petition 2070; KINGSTON-UPON-HULL.
  • 19. Recs. Co. Hostmen, 61.
  • 20. List of Sheriffs, 42a; Procs. 1614 (Commons), 30, 37-41, 78-9.
  • 21. Nef, ii. 241-4; APC, 1615-16, pp. 537-8; CSP Dom. 1611-18, pp. 360, 374-5; Welford, 266-7.
  • 22. Durham Civic Memorials ed. C.E. Whiting (Surtees Soc. clx), 25-6; Surtees, iv. pt. 2, pp. 157-8; A.W. Foster, ‘Struggle for Parl. Representation for Durham’, in Last Principality ed. D. Marcombe, 176-201.
  • 23. Durham UL, DPRI/1/1625/S4/1-22; Welford, 266-7; DURH 3/189/142.