Dere Street Barristers was formed in December 2011 on the merger of two highly regarded sets of chambers on the North Eastern Circuit.

Broad Chare Chambers was formed in 1988 when the members of the celebrated 51 Westgate Road set moved to our current premises at historic Trinity House on the Newcastle Quayside. Soon afterwards they were joined by members of chambers at 81 Westgate Road.

When their chambers suffered bomb damage during the Second War members of 5 Paper Buildings moved to 2 Harcourt Buildings in the Temple. Many of its members practised on the North Eastern Circuit and by convention Circuit practitioners with an interest in civil work would join on taking Silk. In 1990 its northern based members formed York Chambers and renovated our current premises at 14 Toft Green, York. Between 2001 and 2011 they also practised from an annex on the top floor of Rotterdam House, overlooking the River Tyne and adjacent to the Millennium Bridge.

In 2021 we acquired a suite of rooms close to the new Civil, Family and Tribunal Centre in Newcastle and consolidated our long-standing association with Teesside by taking brand new premises in the Centre Square development at Middlesbrough.

Illustrious forbears

We are privileged to follow in the footsteps of distinguished predecessors who have practised from our chambers. They include a remarkable cohort of exceptional advocates who came to be known as “The Lions of the North”, the first woman on the North Eastern Circuit to be appointed Queen’s Counsel, a succession of Leaders of Circuit, Judges of the High Court and a Lord Chief Justice.

With thanks to HH Robert Taylor and HH Paul Batty KC for some of the biographical information provided herein;

Myrella Cohen QC

Myrella Cohen was an important pioneer for women at the Bar. She was the first female to practise in Newcastle, and the first woman member of the Circuit to take Silk from provincial chambers. Furthermore, in England and Wales, she was only the fifth woman to take Silk and the third woman to be appointed to the Bench.

She was born in Manchester on 18th December 1927, the daughter of Sam and Sarah Cohen. Her unusual first name was a combination of those of her grandmothers, Myra and Ella, both of whom were immigrants from eastern Europe. She was educated at Manchester High School for Girls, Colwyn Bay Grammar School and Manchester University, where she gained an LL.B. Much later, in 1992, she was the first person to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Law by the University of Sunderland.

She was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1950, and was initially a member of chambers at 26 King Street, Manchester. However in 1953 she moved to 51 Westgate Road, Newcastle. She was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1971. At the age of 44 she was appointed a Circuit Judge, based for many years in Newcastle; for the last two years on the Bench she was Resident Judge at Harrow. She died in 2002.

The Lions of the North

In the second part of the 20th century 51 Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne, was the stable of a remarkable generation of barristers.

Wilf Steer QC

Wilf Steer was born in Sunderland on 23rd August 1926. He was educated at Bede Collegiate School, Sunderland and the London School of Economics. After completing his National Service in the Guards he was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1950.

He enjoyed an almost exclusively defence practice and was renowned for his calm, affable style. He was notoriously impervious to unhelpful judicial interventions and there are a great many anecdotes about that.

In 1972 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel and, unusually for those days, continued to practise from 51 Westgate Road where he was Head of Chambers. He retired in 2000 and died in 2011.

Sir Roderick Smith

Roddy Smith (as he was generally known) was born on 29th April 1926. He went to the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle, and then did 2 years’ National Service in the Royal Navy. After this he studied at Oxford University. He was called to the Bar by the Middle Temple in 1951, following which he joined Norman Harper’s chambers at 51 Westgate Road. He took Silk in 1966.

He was appointed to the Circuit Bench in 1972 and became Resident Judge at Newcastle Crown Court. In 1978 he was appointed to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court and then, in 1980, a Presiding judge of the North Eastern Circuit. Tragically he died suddenly in 1981, just two weeks before his 55th birthday.

Lord Taylor of Gosforth

Peter Taylor was born in Newcastle on 1st May 1930. He was also educated at the Royal Grammar School and Cambridge University. Called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1954, he was appointed Queen’s Counsel only 13 years later. His stellar legal career culminated in his appointment as Lord Chief Justice from 1992 to 1996

In Silk he prosecuted many notorious cases, including that of former Liberal Party Leader Jeremy Thorpe, who was accused of conspiracy to murder. Peter Taylor served as Chairman of the Bar Council in 1979 before his elevation to the High Court Bench. Many will recall that he also chaired the inquiry into the disaster at the Hillsborough football stadium in 1989, producing the Taylor Report which led to the introduction of all seater stadia.

He died in 1997, at the age of 66.

James Chadwin QC

James Chadwin was born in Glasgow on 7th June 1930. He was educated at the High School of Glasgow, Glasgow University and Oxford University. After spending six years in the RAF he was called to the Bar by Gray’s Inn in 1958 and joined 51 Westgate Road. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1976 and became Leader of the North Eastern Circuit in 1988.

He was extremely successful in Silk and involved in many of the highest profile cases of his day, most notably of all the defence of Peter Sutcliffe in 1981; Sutcliffe, known as the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’, admitted killing 13 woman and attempting to kill another 7.

When he died in 2006 his obituary in The Times described him as –

An advocate of considerable charm and charisma, Chadwin was able to influence juries with an almost effortless ease. With his rotund figure, battered wig and penchant for cheroots, he bore more than a passing resemblance to Horace Rumpole. Like John Mortimer’s creation, he had an ingenious mind that frequently produced surprising results. His good-natured humour and seemingly limitless fund of anecdotes was much admired by other barristers and by the Bench.

Sir Humphrey Potts

Humphrey Potts was born in County Durham on 18th August 1931 and also attended the Royal Grammar School. He read law at Oxford University and, in 1955, was called to the Bar by Lincoln’s Inn. He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1971.

In 1986 he was appointed as a High Court Judge (QBD) and served as a Presiding Judge of the North Eastern Circuit from 1988 to 1991. Famously he heard the criminal trial of the Jeffrey Archer which followed a successful libel action against the Daily Star where the author was awarded £500,000 damages; in the words of his obituary in the Telegraph,

Potts, an admirably fair-minded yet no-nonsense northerner, was less easily won over, and he conducted the perjury trial with impressive firmness and occasional flashes of humour.

Lord Archer (as he then was) was convicted and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.

Humphrey Potts died in 2012.

Leaders of the Circuit

In the mid-20th century 2 Harcourt Buildings produced a succession of Leaders of the North Eastern Circuit.

Charles Paley Scott KC

C Paley Scott was born in York on 17th June 1881. He was educated at St Peters School, York, and Cambridge University. He was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1906 but interrupted his legal career to serve in France between 1917 and 1919.

He took Silk in 1933 and was phenomenally successful: prior to the Second World War he was reportedly earning about seven times the salary of his contemporaries on the High Court Bench. He was appointed, successively, Recorder of Doncaster, Hull and Leeds and, also, Chancellor of the County Palatine of Durham and of the diocese of Bradford.

He was taken ill in his chambers on 30th January 1950 and, contrary to legend, he did not die in the arms of his loyal clerk, but later on the same evening at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

Paley Scott was Leader of Circuit for 10 years until his death. His full bottomed wig and tin continue to be used by Leaders of the North Eastern Circuit

Sir (George) Raymond Hinchcliffe

Raymond Hinchcliffe was born in Huddersfield on 2nd March 1900. During the First War he served with the RAF.

He was appointed Recorder of Leeds in 1950 and to the High Court Bench in 1957. At the time of his death in 1973 he was a Presiding Judge of the North Eastern Circuit

Henry Scott QC

Henry Scott, the first son of C Paley Scott, was born on 14th March 1915.

He was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1961 and Recorder of Hull before, in 1971, he became the Resident Judge at Leeds.

Henry Scott is a revered figure still; although he died in 1977 his legacy endures, not least in the eponymous Trust Fund which he established to offer financial assistance to young barristers on the Circuit.

Former members

Peter Taylor KC, James Chadwin KC and Gilbert Gray KC also served as Leaders of Circuit.

Heads of Chambers (post 1945-2011)

51 Westgate Road / Broad Chare2 Harcourt Buildings / York
Norman HarperC Paley Scott KC
Lyall WilkesG Raymond Hinchcliffe KC
Wilf Steer KCHenry Scott KC
Esmond FaulksClifford Lauriston KC & Rudolph Castle-Miller
Christopher WaltonLouis Lawton KC
Eric Elliott (subsequently KC)Robin Stewart KC
Paddy Cosgrove KCSimon Hawkesworth KC
Ben Nolan KCAidan Marron KC
 Gilbert Gray KC
 John Elvidge KC  

Appointment to the Bench

Over the years many members of chambers have been appointed to fee paid and full-time judicial office as Coroners, Tribunal Chairs, District Judges, Recorders and Circuit Judges.  

Female members of chambers have enjoyed particular success in obtaining full-time judicial appointments since the days of HHJ Myrella Cohen QC and HHJ Paling, to HHJ Beatrice Bolton and continuing to the present day.  

Those who have been appointed a Designated Civil and Family Judges or Resident Judges of the Crown Court include:

HHJ Paul Batty KC (Resident Judge and an Honorary Recorder of Carlisle and York) 

HHJ Peter Bowers (DCJ Cleveland and South Durham) 

HHJ Michael Taylor (DCJ and DFJ Cleveland and South Durham) 

HHJ Judy Moir (DFJ Newcastle) 

HHJ Christopher Walton (DCJ Newcastle)  

HHJ Simon Hawkesworth QC (DCJ Bradford) 

HHJ Aidan Marron KC (Resident Judge at Blackfriars) 

HHJ Gillian Matthews KC (DCJ and DFJ Cleveland and South Durham) 

HHJ Peter Johnson (Resident Judge at Exeter) 

Other colleagues recently appointed to full-time judicial office include: 

HHJ James Brown (2016)

HHJ Diane Campbell (2018)

HHJ Julie Clemitson (2019)

HHJ Andrew Holmes (2019)

Judge Advocate Edward Legard (2019)

Deemster Graeme Cook (2019)

Area Coroner Oliver Longstaff (2022)

HHJ Carly Henley (2022)

HHJ Harvey Murray (2022)

HHJ Nathan Adams (2023) (also appointed DJ 2018)