Although Selby Abbey is now a parish church, it was one of England's great monastic churches and one of the three most important Benedictine Houses in the north and traditionally the earliest. Built on a grand scale and to a high level of architectural and artistic mastery, it was founded in 1069 by William the Conqueror, the first monastery in the north after the Norman Conquest predating both York and Durham. It is a key building illustrating the transition from Romanesque or Norman to a fully developed Gothic style. It is one of the few churches to survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s almost intact other than Westminster Abbey. The view from the Abbey's Nave has been described as one of the most beautiful, powerful and intriguing church interiors in the land. The Abbey has survived centuries of political and religious turmoil as well as two disastrous fires. As recently as 2002 its very existence had been threatened by extensive damage to its limestone eaten away by pollution over time.
The roof restoration is necessary to keep water out of the fabric of the Abbey. Recent inspections confirm that failing lead on the roofs and multiple cracks in the asphalt gutters are allowing water into the Abbey and as a result stonework is becoming eroded and damaged. The nave gutters, nave south aisle roof and the north transept's west gutter are all in need of replacing. All have reached the end of their lives and need replacing. Completing this work is crucial to keeping water out of the fabric.