The Selbys - Ightham Mote's longest reigning family

Painting of Dame Dorothy appearing between a curtain, with red hair, white face, elaborate lace ruff and period Elizabethan dress.

The Selby family owned Ightham Mote for nearly 300 years (1591-1889). Originally from Northumberland, the early Selbys were law enforcement officers on the borders between England and Scotland in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

A bit of controversy

Dame Dorothy was granted permission to worship at home as her husband, suffering from gout in his later years, found it increasingly difficult to get to the parish church. This was controversial at the time as the Selbys had fallen out with the local minister, Mr Grimes, who accused Sir William of favouring Catholics.


Where there’s a will

Sir William and Dame Dorothy had no children, and according to the first Sir William’s will, Ightham Mote passed to various Selby cousins. During this period, the Selby men mostly married into local families – the Rayneys of Great Comp, the Amhursts of Bayhall in Pembury, the Giffords of Pennis in Fawkenham and the Westons of Willesley in Cranbrook. By the end of the 18th century, Ightham Mote had passed to more distant cousins – the Brownes of Suffolk and Shropshire, who changed their name to Selby in order to inherit the house.



Thomas Selby, the owner of Ightham Mote from 1791–1820, disinherited his only son Charles, who had become a missionary in the Isles of Scilly. Why was he disinherited? We don’t know for sure, but he appears to have upset some important people on Scilly, as well as fathering an illegitimate son. Thomas, Charles and his sister all died in 1820 and Thomas’s wife inherited a life interest until 1845. 


The end of an era

In 1845, Ightham Mote passed to an even more distant cousin, Prideaux John Selby, who was a well-respected naturalist living in Northumberland. The contents of Ightham Mote were sold, with the proceeds of sale benefitting the children of Charles, the disinherited son.

The Victorian era saw Prideaux’s daughter Marianne in residence at Ightham Mote. With her second husband, Major Robert Luard-Selby, she commissioned the architect Norman Shaw to work on the Great Hall.

By 1889, after almost 300 years, the Selby family had run out of money. After the deaths of Marianne and her son and heir, the son by her first marriage, the executors sold the Ightham Mote estate.