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.




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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Joyce Heron ...
Hilda Rumpole
Noel Willman ...
Mr. Justice Bates
David Yelland ...
Nick Rumpole
Herbert Norville ...
Ossie Gladstone - The Defendant
Artro Morris ...
George Sweeney ...
John Byron ...
Magnus Piecan
Detective Inspector Arthur
Paul Greenhalgh ...
Rev. Eldred Pickersgill
Prison Officer
Tommy Wright ...
Man in Cell
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)  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


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


[describing the judge who is trying Ossie's case]
Horace Rumpole: [voiceover] There he is. Giving me a look of vague disgust. Like Queen Victoria with a bad period.
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Followed by Rumpole of the Bailey (1978) See more »

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User Reviews

The first Rumpole, a legend in the making!
5 February 2004 | by See all my reviews

The first Rumpole, a teleplay done three years before the popular series, clearly shows a legend in the making. We are introduced to a more deeply human Rumpole, a deeply flawed but gifted English barrister who spouts poetry like some blustery literary typhoon yet is stunned to a momentary silence of personal reality when he discovers his wife and son don't quite know exactly who he is. Nor does he, for that matter. Rumpole is Leo McKern at his finest, the character of a lifetime for an aging English actor of more than some repute and talent, and Rumpole is one of my all time favorite characters and all time favorite shows. If you've ever seen Rumpole, make absolutely certain you see the original too.

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