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 Selby Old Station

The first Selby station opened to passengers on 22 September 1834 and is one of the most substantial railway buildings to survive from this early period. James Walker, the Leeds & Selby Railway's Engineer, presented his proposals to the railway's directors in February 1834 and these took the form of a transhipment shed for goods and passengers flanked by warehouses which could be let out to traders and shippers to provide rental income. The termini were already proving more expensive than the company had bargained for so they agreed to construct the shed with massive side walls which could later form part of multi-storey warehouses, but not to proceed with the latter at present. In the event the warehouses remained unbuilt. The detailed design was probably prepared by Walker's resident engineer, George Smith, who was responsible for the slightly later Micklefield warehouse. It was approved by the directors in May 1834 and its construction was let to Atack & Boothman, who were already building the Leeds terminus.

The Selby design comprised a three-span trainshed, with passengers handled in the middle part and goods in the flanking sections from which tracks ran through to riverside jetties, where goods could be shipped into river steamers for the remainder of the journey to Hull. This is the intended layout shown in the plan above but, as noted later, part of the building was adapted (possibly from the outset) as a two-road engine shed occupying the south end of the westernmost span. The shed roof employs traditional timber trusses with the valleys borne on cast-iron columns with basic neo-classical detailing; these were hollow and conducted rainwater to underground tanks, providing a source of pure water for the locomotive boilers. In contrast to the Liverpool and Manchester termini of 1830, no passenger platforms were provided at either Selby or Leeds.


The side walls are two feet thick and pierced by openings which could readily have formed doorways into the flanking warehouses, had these ever been built. Thus the openings are splayed on the outside (which would have become the interior of such a warehouse) and they extend down to what would have been the floor level, a little above the present ground surface. Some have been built up but others retain their original windows, with a thin brick apron filling between the cill and the bottom of the opening

.Although the east wall of the trainshed is partly concealed by a later building, it apparently began life with just three such openings. The west wall, however, has additional openings in its southern half, forming a series of four windows. These lit a two-road engine shed which occupied the south end of the west span of the station and which was screened off from the goods and passenger areas by partition walls inserted between the roof columns. These openings match, in detail, those in the east wall so they are presumed to be original and to indicate that locomotives were stabled in that area from the outset as an economy. The 1848 Ordnance Survey shows the engine shed extending just beyond the cross track shown in the plan above serving a line of turntables; a track was taken across from these at an angle to provide goods wagons with access into the residue of the area. The shed closed when the NER roundhouse was completed and the partition walls were removed at the end of 1873, opening up the whole interior for goods activity.

Front elevation of the 1834 station, with an NER range added to the left-hand side; a hoist beam is seen above its partially blocked upper doorway. The two slightly-arched entrances are original while the two middle ones were inserted in 1841, the date borne on their cast-iron lintels.

Facing the river is the station's front elevation, a simple but formal composition in which the end bays project forward slightly to frame the openings through which tracks originally ran to the river bank. The centre retains evidence of four blocked openings which imply that there were windows fronting the passenger area on two levels. A sandstone cornice and blocking course complete the composition, the latter stepping up a little above the end openings to help 'bookend' the design. Curiously, the brickwork of this facade is not actually bonded into that of the side walls.

The 1834 station frontage with the NER goods offices, built in 1890, on the right; Christopher Paver's former house lies just off to the right.

The blocked windows into the middle section of the frontage might suggest that there had been a shallow range of offices inside, however that seems unlikely since the railway made use of an existing house at the north-west corner of the site. The station site had previously belonged to Edward Robert Petre, one of the railway's promoters, and the house had been occupied by his local agent Christopher Paver, a surveyor and land agent who was also an investor in the railway. The building appears to be seventeenth century in origin though extended over the years to create a picturesque ensemble. The Petres being Catholics, it served for a time as a Catholic chapel for the town but these associations would not have saved it from demolition had Walker's scheme for warehouses gone ahead. Since its site was not immediately required, the Leeds & Selby adopted it for their agent's house and offices, building a small linking range to the trainshed.

The old house seen from the north end of platform 1, with a glimpse of the 1834 station behind at extreme right.

Christopher Paver's old house in about 1970, with a blind arcade fronting the linking office range to the 1834 trainshed on the right. The gable poking up behind is that of the 1890 NER goods offices.

With the opening of the line to Hull on 1 July 1840, passengers transferred to the new station and the old one was largely given over to goods; fully so from 1874. The NER made few significant changes inside the building other than some track re-arrangement and the insertion of wooden platforms, seen here in this view of the interior of the building c1970. Although goods traffic was still being handled then, the right-hand roof span had been partitioned off to provide lettable storage for traders. The two 1841 front-wall openings line up with the two tracks seen here. The left-hand one had been blocked but the other remained although a wooden office had been built partly in front.

The NER was probably responsible for the gabled wooden south wall which presently finishes the building; they also framed the north front with a pair of short two-storey ranges. That on the west was built in 1890-91 as new goods offices; it is squeezed between the 1834 trainshed and the old house and occupies the site of an earlier office range. The one on the east is more puzzling. Its style suggests a date consistent with 1874 when a stable block was erected while the slatted lower sashes formerly seen in the upper-floor windows, as well as the former gable-end sack hoist, would be consistent with the existence of a hayloft. However, the scale of the building suggests that it may involve an enlargement around 1890-91 of whatever already existed.

A view around 1970 of the NER building added on the east side of the 1834 station. In the foreground a Rail Express Parcels van lurks behind a stack of pallets.

The last significant addition to the ensemble is a 'railhead store' built in the yard to a modular concrete post and panel design developed by the LNER; the idea of these was to provide storage facilities for local traders (typically agricultural feed merchants) from which they could distribute products by road.

Still there in 2015, the railhead store seen against a backdrop of the passenger station's 1890 east platform offices and the tower of Selby Abbey, with the gaunt timber gables of the 1834 trainshed on the right.








© W. Fawcett, 2011