Play for Today (1970–1984)
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Rumpole of the Bailey 

An irreverent barrister chooses to defend a young Jamaican boy accused of stabbing on the same day his only son leaves for college in America.


John Gorrie


John Mortimer




Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Leo McKern ... Horace Rumpole
Joyce Heron Joyce Heron ... Hilda Rumpole
Noel Willman ... Mr. Justice Bates
David Yelland ... Nick Rumpole
Herbert Norville Herbert Norville ... Ossie Gladstone - The Defendant
Artro Morris Artro Morris ... Mr. Winter
George Sweeney ... Jo
John Byron John Byron ... George
Vernon Dobtcheff ... Magnus Piecan
Edwin Brown ... Detective Inspector Arthur
Paul Greenhalgh Paul Greenhalgh ... Rev. Eldred Pickersgill
Peter Spraggon ... Prison Officer
Tommy Wright Tommy Wright ... Man in Cell
Sarah Thomas ... Grace
Eric Hillyard Eric Hillyard ... Court Usher


Horace Rumpole is an iconoclastic, poetry-quoting "Old Bailey hack," whose irreverence is not particularly popular with judges. He has a dysfunctional marriage to "she who must be obeyed" and a rather tenuous one with Nick, his only son, who has always believed his father cares more for the Bailey than him. Although Nick is scheduled to leave for college in America, Rumpole opts to defend a Jamaican teenager who has apparently confessed to randomly stabbing a pedestrian at a bus stop after a cricket match. Nick does stop by the courthouse to have lunch with his father and try establish communication with him before he leaves. Written by

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama







Release Date:

16 December 1975 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt See more »

Filming Locations:

England, UK

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Served as the pilot for a series of the same name that ran from 1978 to 1992. See more »


Horace Rumpole: [to nick] You can't get born or die in a dignified position... now how can you live in one, OLd Dear?
See more »


Followed by Rumpole of the Bailey: Rumpole's Return (1980) See more »

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User Reviews

Rumpole at sunrise
1 January 2010 | by gimhoffSee all my reviews

The Rumpole of the Bailey series is largely a comedy, primarily because of the antics of Horace Rumpole's colleagues at 3 Equity Court and Rumpole's usually successful efforts to frustrate their schemes. But this introduction to Rumpole is a sadder, more melancholy, short play that doesn't show his life in chambers, but that takes Rumpole's dysfunctional family life a bit more seriously. Rumpole's legal philosophy is already fully formed even before the beginning of the series -- the true crime isn't being a criminal, but imprisoning criminals. However, his wife Hilda ("She Who Must Be Obeyed") hasn't found that awkward balance she has in the series between loving and loathing Rumpole, between being frustrated by him and fearing that every woman he meets is attracted to him. She's really unhappy in her marriage. Rumpole's son, who in the series loves and appreciates his father, has a much more difficult relationship with him here.

It's well worth seeing for those who love the Rumpole series and stories. It's unfortunately not included in the complete series collection, but it is available as a stand-alone DVD.

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