Selston church (photo: A Nicholson, 2006).
Selston church (photo: A Nicholson, 2006).

THE large industrial village of Selston has been a coal-mining centre since at least the early part of the 14th century, but its history goes centuries further back than that.

About 1830 was found here during ploughing, in a field, little more than a foot deep in the soil, an earthen vase containing silver coins of the reigns of Nero, Galba, Vitellius, Vespasian, Domitian, Nerva, Trajan, and some republican coins.

The coins, we are told, were well preserved, and the fact that they covered the period from AD54 to 117 may perhaps be taken as implying a settlement of some sort within the present bounds of the parish. If this be so, the site was probably abandoned, as were so many Roman sites in Britain by the middle of the 4th century, when the Romans withdrew from this country, leaving the inhabitants to deal as best they could with the invading Picts and Scots, for in the absence of physiographical or written records, nothing definite seems to be known of Selston in the time of the Saxons.

We are driven back to place-name terminology for such information as can he gleaned from that source for pre-Norman probable history.

Danish term

The "Thorp" of Bagthorpe is a Danish term for a small village: Brook Hole the Brookeholclif of the 14th century, when Cinderhill was known as Synderflat implies a badger resort: Stubbings indicates forest clearings: Pudding-bag was probably a later term of derision for a mud patch. Bagthorpe is said to have been founded by a Norseman named Baggi: the name of Beaufit Farm, we are told by the Place-Name Society, is a derivative of the Danish Both and Thweit, meaning clearing and a paddock or parcel of land, while Horsic is according to the same source, a product of 'hobs-goblin' and the Saxon 'sic' a small stream, the whole weirdly indicating a 'goblin brook.'

As is so often the case, the solid ground of historical fact is not reached until the Norman Conquest. Domesday tells that in the time of William I, Selston had three manors held of the fee of Peveril, each of one bovate, and held by Ulmer, Gladuin and Uluric.

Few people

Only four villeins and two bordars are mentioned in the great survey of 1086, and though the population must have been small, there was a church. The Saxon owners were dispossessed, their lands falling to the share of William Peveril and their taxable value to the King had increased from eight shillings to ten shillings since 1066.

Interior of Selston church.
Interior of Selston church.

It was probably nearer the end the reign that the church was rebuilt and enlarged by the addition of the north aisle.

The south arcade, chancel and chapels and the south porch of the present church are credited by Dr. Cox to this period. By that time, the Peveril estates had been forfeited by the 4th William Peveril, who had fought for King Stephen against Henry II, and from 1171 onwards, the parish was sending two shillings a year (a fairly high average in this district) as its Pentecostal offering to Southwell.

Thoroton states that in the time of King John, Hugh Fitz-Ralph and his sons gave to Dale Abbey in return for post obits seven bovates of land in Paynesthorpe and Selston, being those which John de Malington and Juge, his mother, held.

The donor also exchanged ten bovates in Selston with the monks of that abbey for lands in Wandesley and Little Hallam, and, for the soul of his wife, gave them a bovate here called Standelcrofts with other lands and rents here and at Wandesley.


The example thus set was infectious and in the reign of Henry III, Felley Priory received from Rannulph de Wandesley a rental of sixty shillings out of Selston, Westwood and Thorpe upon condition that the canons there celebrated daily in the chapel at Wandesley for the welfare of the souls of himself and his family.

By this time, the Stotevilles were the superior lords of Selston in succession to the Fitz Huberts who held part, at least of Selston from him, and by 1251, Alexander de Wandesley (Ranulph's father) recovered the rectory in a suit against Hugh Fitz-Ralph.

There is a record that in the time of Edward I (1272-1307) the lordship had passed by female descent to the Cressys and Grattons, and another record to the effect that about 1306 the coal workings here were leased for 99 years to Walter de Cantelupe in return for 32 horse-loads of coal each year.

In view of the subsequent history of the coal industry in Selston, it is curious to read that this arrangement was made subject to the proviso "if the coal holds out." In 1305, Wm. de Cressy and his wife, and Wm. de Gratton and his wife to end a family feud, agreed that Joanne, wife of Wm. de Cressy, was entitled to a share in the lands, woods, collieries and mills of Selston.

The details of this dispute and its settlement are given in extenso in the Year Book for 1310-11.

In 1316, Selston was found to be a whole village by itself, and its lords were certified to be Wm. de Cantalupe, Wm. de Gratton and John and Thomas de Cressy, but a portion was held by Sir William de Roos.

At what period coal was first raised at Selston is unknown, but it was well established by the end of the reign of Edward I, and William de Cantelupe interpreting his grant in terms convenient to himself was soon at loggerheads with tenants of certain dwellings whose gardens he dug up mercilessly for the precious carbon.

Details of his settlement with one of these injured tenants, one Simon de Greenhill, surrendering to the colliery proprietor "all mines, diggings of coal, and iron with appurtenances in all his lands and tenements in the said township of Selleston for life, for the digging, selling, and carrying and convenience of the said Lord William and his heirs, with free ingress and egress through the township without opposition" in return for a free supply of coal to themselves for life.

The big event in the history of Selston occurred in 1343 when Nicholas de Cantelupe founded Beauvale Priory for a prior and twelve Carthusian monks and endowed it with his park here and the advowson of the church. His gift included 13 messuages and much of Selston's land, together with the compulsory service of the villeins who occupied the same in feudal tenure, with common of pasture for all the manner of cattle throughout his demesne and permission for the monks to quarry stone for the building of their priory and taking marl.

An annuity

In 1347, he increased his benefaction by a further £20 per annum in rentals, and when the priory was built in 1360, Hugh de Cressy gave to the monks all his lands and rents in Kimberley and Newthorpe in return for an annuity of £7 10s. so long as he lived, or £4 10s. a year to his wife if she survived him.

The Carthusian monks of Beauvale lost no time in securing appropriation of the church to themselves; within a year, they were in possession of the rectory and its revenues: the rector in office was provided with a living in Lincolnshire and the rectory was reduced to a vicarage, as it has since continued.

The Priory had, however, to provide a parsonage near the church for the vicar and allow him certain small titles for his sustenance. In 1650 it was found that the impropriate rectory was worth ten times as much as the vicarage.

Having received so much the Priory soon got more out of Selston. The Cantelupes proved to be munificent donors who quickly added to their benefactions by giving 13 messuages, their park and other lands here.

In 1356, they were granted view of frankpledge of their tenants in the vill of Selleston, and Richard II allowed Robert, Vicar of Greasley, to give them further lands, messuages and rentals amounting to £4 12s. 7d. here and in neighbouring  villages. Their possessions in 1392 included extensive lands, formerly Cressy's and Grattons, held by service of rendering a pair of gloves yearly at Easter. The village was not devoid of picturesque or disturbing incidents. In the early crusading days when the duty of fighting the Paynim in the Holy Land  was being widely preached, Adam de Selston was among those who impulsively responded.

It was probably in Selston church that he was marked by a cross in token of his vow; but repenting of making the vow, he cried off, and was allowed to repudiate, it upon payment of half a mark by way of fine.

A pardon

In 1346, Hugh de Cressy of Selston, then fighting for Edward III in France, was granted a pardon for his offences to that date upon condition that he remained in France until licensed to return. William de Selston was one of a band of outlaws, who in 1327, moving in and about Radcliffe, whom the sheriff was commanded to capture and imprison for "beating, wounding, robbing, and slaying the King's subjects." But whether the sheriff's efforts were successful or not appears to be unrecorded.

Richard Helde of Selston was also an outlaw; he escaped the probable fate of "wavering in the wind" upon the gallows by receiving a royal pardon in 1421.

On the brighter side it is on record that when Henry I was moving northwards after the decisive battle of Shrewsbury, in which many Notts. men fought and fell, he was entertained by Richard Selston. The royal least took place at Mansfield, but probably many from Selston then met the King.

By the time of the Wars of the Roses, the coal industry at Selston was already well developed, and when William Arnolde in 1457 bequeathed to Beauvale Priory "all the coals under his land in the parish of Selston, with power to sink shafts, make drains, and employ punches and proppes," it was evident that the days of coal quarries were, locally, over and that pits with galleries and other underground workings were established.

The grant was a lease for 99 years at a rent of thirteen shillings and fourpence, and it is curious to read that it became inoperative at once if the coal gave out. As soon as the war was over, the monks took the precaution of having such a valuable charter officially recorded.

Coals to Nottingham

From entries in the Records of the Borough, it is obvious that Selston was supplying Nottingham with a share of its coal.

In 1483, Elias Day entered into a contract to supply Richard Ody of Nottingham to deliver by a specified date ten wagon loads of "pytte coals" from Selston, with an undertaking to deliver a similar quantity within two months. The customer was a draper who apparently anticipated the modern "stores" by supplying a varied assortment of commodities. Great were the changes of proprietorship at Selston under  Henry VIII and the suppression of Beauvale Priory in 1539 was of a significance far beyond the merely spiritual at Selston. Beauvale Priory was granted with its possessions, exclusive of the mines, to Sir William Hussey of London. Its lands here passed in 1550 to Richard Moryson and later was held by the Earls of Essex.

Felley Priory had property here called Bothweth Grange, all worth £5 6s. 8d., Dale Abbev was drawing a rent of £2 from the vill; to Sir Wm. Hussey fell the manor of Selston with its "mines of coal and lead," and in 1545, the king granted to Rd. Willoughby the local possessions forfeited to the Crown by the treason of Edmund de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk.

Ere the shattering blow of dissolution had fallen upon Beauvale, its monks had leased for 40 years its mines of coal and lead at Selston and upon John Gernon producing deed of lease in 1539 the mines were confirmed to him for that period, with an allowance for the rents and profits taken therefrom during the last two years.

In disorder

Parochially the parish was in disorder for the prior appointed by the Protestant Edward VI in 1550 contrived to retain the living throughout the reign of the Catholic Queen Mary and appears not to have been superseded until 1573, and Sir Michael Stanhope of Shelford who had bought property given for the maintenance of the parish church shared in the downfall of his kinsman, the Protector Duke of Somerset; and was beheaded.

In 1539 no less than 44 men of Selston were certified fit to bear arms. Most of them were probably colliers for the parish was developing as an industrial centre, and at its suppression the Carthusians were drawing an income approximately equal to £400 today.

The manor, with the site and lands of Beauvale Priory passed to Lord Capell by the marriage of a Moryson heiress in the reign of Elizabeth and the Molyneux interest was conveyed in similar fashion to Gervase Nevill who married another Molyneux heiress.