On January 17, 2015, Selby Abbey suddenly became England’s most famous church. Not to the English in England maybe. But in Taiwan and perhaps Mainland China, definitely yes. Suddenly more famous than Canterbury Cathedral, York Minster, St. Paul’s or Westminster Abbey. And the place has been humming with Taiwanese and Chinese visitors ever since. All coming to see the church and town where famous Taiwanese singer Jay Chou 周杰倫 and his wife were married on that day. The internet is buzzing with reports of the great event, the Daily Mail one is here. The couple certainly kept it secret at the time, but now the place is well and truly on the tourist map. It suddenly got itself on my map of must-see places too. So today, me and good friend Shelagh, off we went on our first ever visit to Selby ~ only 15 miles south of York ~ and what a jewel of a place it is!
Selby Abbey was the first monastery to be founded in the north of England after the Norman Conquest of Britain, and the abbey church is one of the few to survive the Reformation. And it all started when St. Benedict had a vision from St. Germain telling him to build a monastery in England in a place where he saw 3 swans swimming. That was 1069. About the same time, William the Conqueror was ravaging the north of England, and his son, later to be King Henry I, was born in Selby, the only Norman king to be born in England. So there you have it. The 3 swans are a symbol of Selby. The town guide book is even called ‘Swanning around Selby’. So that’s exactly what we did for a few hours. We swanned around the town in the sunshine. Met some Chinese tourists and Selby locals. Heard firsthand about the Chinese tourism boom currently hitting Selby. So of course we joined in too, took the required photos and had tea and scones, like all good tourists should…
There’s no doubt, Selby Abbey is completely overshadowed by the dominance of York Minster just up the road, and Beverley Minster not far away too. Selby’s glory is described as that of “a stately old lady, retired to the country with her dignity and memories intact.” But perhaps not for much longer! It’s now on THE tourist map. It deserves all the attention it’s getting, it’s been bypassed for way too long. It is truly a little gem of a place.
So, get there before the crowds, it’s a jewel in the crown that is Yorkshire!