Number 2, Bailiffgate is often referred to as Derwentwater House. Strictly speaking, though, the name “Derwentwater House” refers to the previous building that stood on this site. The story of this earlier building begins a century before the property came into the hands of the Percy family.
The earliest reference dates from 1679 and it was described as the “slate house”. In an 18th century painting it appears as being lower than the present building with two storeys, a dormer attic, and what may be a pantiled roof. James Radclyffe, the 3rd Earl of Derwentwater grew up in France as a companion to James Francis Edward Stuart, the Old Pretender. He became the Earl of Derwentwater and inherited his Northumberland estates on the death of his father in 1705. This was shortly before his 16th birthday. For the next few years he travelled on the continent, then returned to England in 1710 and lived at Dilstone, near Corbridge. He joined the Jacobite Rising of 1715. When the rebels were defeated at the Battle of Preston he was taken to the Tower of London and impeached on
19 January 1716. He pleaded guilty and was condemned to death. Efforts to procure his pardon were unsuccessful and he was beheaded on Tower Hill on 24th February 1716.
The Derwentwater Estates were forfeited to the Crown, then given to the Greenwich Hospital in 1735, as a way for the charity to fund itself. They sold Derwentwater House
to the Percy family in 1780.
In 1796 the Duke of Northumberland appointed James Dormer as commissioner, and replaced Derwentwater House with Bailiffgate House to provide him with accommodation. It was occupied by subsequent Commissioners between 1805 and 1847, and continued in residential use until 1888 when it was taken over by the Duchess’s School.
The footprints of the adjoining properties (numbers 4,6 and 8) match earlier maps, and the frontages are of similar style, but later date. The most likely explanation is that after Bailiffgate house was built, the frontage of Nos. 6-8 was altered to match the style, and that the frontage of number 4 was later changed to match both.