It is also a port, with seagoing vessels able to reach Selby up the River Ouse.
The magnificent Selby Abbey, now the parish church, dominates the town. It was founded in the 11th century by Benedict of Auxerre.
Corunna House is one of a number of excellent Georgian houses.
Selby expanded considerably in the 19th century with the coming of the railway.
There was a wooden toll bridge over the Ouse dating from the 18th century. It was replaced in the 1970s, and tolls were abolished in 1991. A swing bridge of 1891 carries the railway.
The Selby Coalfield, said to be the largest in Europe, began to be exploited in 1967, ending in 2004.
Henry I was born at Selby, while his father William I was campaigning in the North. He was the first King of England since the Norman Conquest to be born in England.
The Battle of Selby in 1644 was a defeat for the Royalists in the Civil War, leading to the much greater defeat at Marston Moor.
A disastrous rail crash occurred at Great Heck, near Selby, a few years ago.