English Place-name Society

Survey of English Place-Names

A county-by-county guide to the linguistic origins of England’s place-names – a project of the English Place-Name Society, founded 1923.

Selly Oak

Early-attested site in the Parish of Northfield

Historical Forms

  • Escelie 1086 DB
  • Selle(gh), Selley(e) 1221 Ass 1242 Fees468 1254 Pat 1255 Ass 1292,1323 Ipm 1323 Cl 1327 SR 1403,1416 FF


This looks at first like a compound of sele and leah , which might mean 'clearing with a hall or building on it,' but there are two disturbing factors about the name. The first is the sc in DB, which looks as if the initial sound of the name had originally been OE  sc rather than s . The second is that in the Curia Regis Rolls for 1204 (Salt Soc. ed.) we have one Gervase de Selvele , alternatively called Gervase de Selleg , bringing an action against one Bernard de Frankele , Frankley and Selly are very near, and there is no Shelley from earlier Shelf - or Shelveley nearer than Ess, Sx or Sf. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion therefore that here we have really an OE  scylflēage , 'clearing on the scylf or shelf of land.' As the ground is much broken here that seems to be a possible suggestion from the topographical point of view. In quite modern times the word Oak was suffixed to the name of the manor. Tradition has it that the place took its additional name from a prominent oak- tree within the village.