SELBY, Odinel (by 1500-55), of Berwick-upon-Tweed and Tweedmouth, Northumb.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1509-1558, ed. S.T. Bindoff, 1982
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Family and Education

b. by 1500. m. Janet, ?da. of one Fowberry of Fowberry, 3s. 2da.3

Offices Held

Mayor, Berwick-upon-Tweed 1536-7, 1540-1, 1551-2; ?yeoman extraordinary in 1547.4


Odinel Selby was probably the leading resident of his time in Berwick and he was also a small landowner in the neighbourhood of the town. Virtually nothing is known of the Selby family before him, but by the second quarter of the 16th century branches were established in northern Northumberland at Branxton, Grindon Rigg and Twizell, and Selby may have come from one of these. In the middle of the century several men of this name were prominent in the affairs of Berwick, and John Selby, a ‘faithful and trusty friend’ of Odinel Selby, was porter of the town. The Selbys of Berwick may also have been related to their namesakes the influential merchants of Newcastle.5

Selby was closely connected with the guild and with the regulation of trade in Berwick. He had probably become one of the Twelve sometime before his first mayoralty in 1536. His main interest as a merchant, to judge from his inventory, was in the salmon trade, one of Berwick’s two main trades. In 1521 he shared in the lease of a fishery belonging to the town. At the time of his death he was both owed and owing various quantities of salmon and he was in debt to various men in London, perhaps the stockfishmongers much engaged in trade with Berwick in this period; he also owed £5 5s. to Henry Anderson of Newcastle. He was on several occasions involved in legal proceedings with fellow merchants. In 1533 a Norfolk shipowner ordered by the treasurer of Berwick to bring corn to the town was arrested in connexion with a dispute over a wrongful action for debt. The case was brought before a court of the bishop of Durham and was later referred to Cromwell; Selby secured the backing of an influential local gentleman, Sir William Eure. He was also cited in a chancery suit for keeping deeds relating to a tenement in Berwick which William Hamcottes, a London stockfishmonger, rightfully owned. Later it was claimed in the Star Chamber that Selby while mayor ordered his officers to arrest Hamcottes, and a certain Lawrence Fober (?Fowberry) at the instigation of Selby commenced actions against Hamcottes at Berwick and Newcastle and took his ship, goods and merchandise. A further charge was made against Selby’s exercise of his authority, for in another chancery case about the sending of barrels of salmon to London without payment, John Goldsmith, a London fishmonger, claimed that George Lordysman of Berwick had been ‘greatly friended and favoured within the same’ by the mayor and others. The outcome of all these cases is unknown.6

Selby was also involved in border affairs; he filed numerous bills at days of truce in 1536 and the following year. The extent of his involvement in the plot of 1538 to murder Sir Thomas Clifford, captain of Berwick, is not clear. The leading conspirators were members of the Grey family, and Edward Bradford and some of the Selby family were implicated. According to Thomas Grey the plot eventually failed because Clifford heard rumour of it through the ‘babbling’ of the ‘foolish fellow’ Odinel Selby.7

It was probably in 1537 that Selby’s absence from Berwick led the Twelve to compel him to reside in the town by a specified date. By the following year he was chosen one of the six persons through whom the fish trade with London, which had been causing some difficulty, was to be conducted. In 1539 Selby was chosen by the Twelve to sit in Parliament and, he was allowed 2s.8d. a day. It was doubtless his prominence in the town both as a merchant and a magistrate which secured his return. As a Member Selby may have been involved in Berwick’s dispute with Newcastle about the shipping of wools, hides and woolskins, for in April 1539 the captain of Berwick informed Cromwell that the Members intended to discuss their grievance in Parliament; no further reference to the matter has been found. Selby continued to figure prominently in the affairs of the town until his death and he was returned to Parliament on two further occasions. If he was the man of his name who attended Henry VIII’s funeral—and the unusual christian name makes this likely—he must before that date have been given the minor court appointment of yeoman extraordinary.8

It is not clear when Selby acquired the property at Tweedmouth which was situated on the other side of the river from Berwick, but it may have been after 1542 since in a survey of that year no owner is named of the tower of Tweedmouth which Selby later bequeathed to his wife. Selby also mentioned in his will property at ‘Crabwater’ and the tithe corn of Goswick, and in his inventory it is noted that Ralph Grey of Chillingham owed him certain rent for the half tithe of South Middleton. At the Dissolution he leased the tithes of Akeld, Lanton and Shotton. He seems to have engaged in small farming, for he mentioned in his will a barn, a byre, a henhouse, a plough, oxen and nags at Tweedmouth. Selby made his will on 6 May 1555 and died later in the same year. After bequeathing his soul to God he requested that his body should be buried in Tweedmouth church. He left much of his property to his wife on condition that she remained single but provided that if she remarried she should have one-third of this legacy; he also made numerous bequests to his relatives. His son William was his heir.9

Ref Volumes: 1509-1558

Author: M. J. Taylor


  • 1. Berwick guild bk. 1508-68, unfoliated.
  • 2. Hatfield 207.
  • 3. Date of birth estimated from first reference. Wills and Inventories, i (Surtees Soc. ii), 142-5; Northumb. Co. Hist. xiv. 223.
  • 4. J. Scott, Berwick, 479; LC2/2, f. 72.
  • 5. Arch. Ael. (ser. 4), xiv. 63-64; Scott, 445; Raine, N. Durham, 315, 338; Berwick guild bk. 1508-68 GMI; NRA 8992 (Northumb. RO, Haggerston (Harelaw) mss, nos. 1, 3-5).
  • 6. Berwick guild bk. 1508-68, GMI; LP Hen. VIII, iii, vi, vii; C1/414/40, 994/12; St.Ch.2/35/84.
  • 7. LP Hen. VIII, xiii; Northumb. Co. Hist. i. 263, 267.
  • 8. Berwick guild bk. 1508-68 GMI; SP1/150/167-8; LC2/2, f. 72.
  • 9. Raine, 25, 244-5; Wills and Inventories, i. 142-5; Northumb. Co. Hist. xi. 118-19.