Rumpole of the Bailey
|Rumpole of the Bailey|
Caricature of Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole from the episode "Rumpole and the Younger Generation"
|Created by||John Mortimer|
|Theme music composer||Joseph Horovitz|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||7|
|No. of episodes||44|
|Running time||c. 50 minute episodes|
|Production company(s)||BBC (play)
Thames Television (series)
|Distributor||FremantleMedia (since 2002)|
|Original network||BBC 1 (play)
|Picture format||4:3 PAL 576i|
|First shown in||17 December 1975Play for Today)(|
|Original release||3 April 1978– 3 December 1992|
Rumpole of the Bailey was a British television series created and written by the British writer and barrister John Mortimer. It starred Leo McKern as Horace Rumpole, an elderly London barrister who defended a broad variety of clients, often underdogs. The TV series led to the stories being presented in other media including books and radio.
The "Bailey" of the title is a reference to the Central Criminal Court, the "Old Bailey".
- 1 Horace Rumpole
- 2 Production
- 3 Television series cast
- 4 Television episodes
- 5 DVD releases
- 6 Radio seasons and episodes
- 6.1 Rumpole: The Splendours and Miseries of an Old Bailey Hack (1980)
- 6.2 Rumpole of the Bailey (2003-present)
- 6.3 Occasional Christmas Radio Specials
- 7 Books
- 8 Notes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
While certain biographical details are slightly different in the original television series and the subsequent book series, Horace Rumpole has a number of definite character traits that are constant. First and foremost, Rumpole loves the courtroom. Despite attempts by his friends and family to get him to move on to a more respectable position for his age, such as a Queen's Counsel (QC) or a Circuit Judge (sarcastically referred to as "Queer Customers" and "Circus Judges" by Rumpole), he only enjoys the simple pleasure of defending his clients (who are often legal aid cases) at the Old Bailey, London's Central Criminal Court: "the honour of being an Old Bailey Hack," as he describes his work. A devotee of Arthur Quiller-Couch's Oxford Book of English Verse, he often quotes Wordsworth (and other poets less frequently, e.g. Shakespeare). He privately refers to his wife Hilda as "She Who Must Be Obeyed", a reference to the fearsome queen in the adventure novel She by H. Rider Haggard.
His skill at defending his clients is legendary among the criminal classes. The Timson clan of "minor villains" (primarily thieves) regularly rely on Rumpole to get them out of their latest bit of trouble with the law. Rumpole is proud of his successful handling of the Penge Bungalow Murders "alone and without a leader" (that is, as a "junior" barrister without a QC) early in his career and of his extensive knowledge about bloodstains and typewriters. Cross-examination is one of his favourite activities, and he disdains barristers who lack either the skill or courage to ask the right questions. His courtroom zeal gets him into trouble from time to time. Often, his investigations reveal more than his client wants him to know. Rumpole's most chancy encounters stem from arguing with judges, particularly those who seem to believe that being on trial implies guilt or that the police are infallible.
Rumpole enjoys smoking inexpensive cigars (cheroots), drinking cheap red wine (claret), and indulging in a diet of fried foods, overboiled vegetables, cheese-and-tomato sandwiches, and steak and kidney pudding. Every day he visits "Pomeroy's", a wine bar on Fleet Street within walking distance of the Old Bailey and his chambers at Equity Court, and at which he contributes regularly to an ever-increasing bar tab by purchasing glasses of red wine of a questionable quality, to which he refers as either "Cooking Claret", "Pomeroy's Plonk", "Pomeroy's Very Ordinary", "Chateau Thames Embankment", or "Chateau Fleet Street". (The last two terms are particularly derogatory: the subterranean Fleet river, which flows below Farringdon Street in a culvert and crosses under one end of Fleet Street at Ludgate Circus, served as the main sewer of Victorian London, while the Thames Embankment in central London was a reclamation of marshy land which, until the 1860s, was notably polluted.) His cigar smoking is often the subject of debate within his Chambers. His peers sometimes criticise his attire, noting his old hat, imperfectly aligned clothes, cigar ash trailing down his waistcoat and faded barrister's wig, "bought second hand from a former Chief Justice of Tonga" (or the Windward Islands: Rumpole is occasionally an unreliable narrator).
Despite his affection for the criminal classes, Rumpole's character is marked by a firm set of ethics. He is a staunch believer in the presumption of innocence, the "Golden Thread of British Justice". He often reinforces this by proclaiming that it is better for 10 guilty men to go free than for one innocent to be convicted (basically Blackstone's formulation).
Accordingly, Rumpole's credo is "I never plead guilty", although he has qualified that credo by stating on several occasions that he is morally bound to enter a guilty plea if he knows for a fact that the defendant is actually guilty of the crime of which he/she is accused. (In fact, he enters a plea of guilty on behalf of his clients in "Rumpole's Last Case".) However, if there is any doubt whatsoever in Rumpole's mind about the facts surrounding the commission of the crime – even if the defendant has personally confessed to the deed (having stated, and proved, on one occasion that "there is no piece of evidence more unreliable than a confession!") – Rumpole feels equally honour-bound to enter a plea of "not guilty" and offer the best defence possible. Rumpole's "never plead guilty" credo also prevents him from making deals that involve pleading guilty to lesser charges. Rumpole also refuses to prosecute, feeling it more important to defend the accused than to work to imprison them. (There was one exception where Rumpole took on a private prosecution, working for a private citizen rather than for the crown, but he proved that the defendant was innocent and then reaffirmed, "from now on, Rumpole only defends".)
Some of Rumpole's clients feel that things would have been better for them if they had been found guilty and resent him for getting them off.
In the early 1970s Mortimer was appearing for some football hooligans when James Burge, with whom he was sharing the defence, told him: "I’m really an anarchist at heart, but I don’t think even my darling old Prince Peter Kropotkin would have approved of this lot." "And there," Mortimer realised, "I had Rumpole."
In the television series, where Rumpole first appeared, there is some consistency with regard to Rumpole's backstory. The original play is set in 1974, and Rumpole states that he is 64 years old, suggesting a birthdate of 1910 (although Leo McKern, the actor who played Rumpole, was born in 1920). Rumpole's Oxford Book of English Verse is inscribed "Horace Rumpole, Little Wicks School 1923. Cursed be he who steals this book," (Series 4 – 1987); he bought his barrister's wig in 1932; first appeared in court in 1937; first met Hilda on 14 August 1938; served in the RAF Ground Staff in WWII; married Hilda in approximately 1944; won the Penge Bungalow Murder case in 1947; and had his son Nick in 1951. The series itself takes place between 1967 and 1992, when Rumpole is getting on in years.
Within the eco-system of the many short stories and occasional novels, which were written over a 29-year period (1978-2007) the biographical details of Rumpole fluctuated. For example, in the very first book, published in 1978, Rumpole mentions buying his wig in 1932, and another time to proposing to Hilda in 1938, and his "sixty-eight next birthday". in Rumpole and the Fascist Beast it is mentioned that Rumpole was born sometime before the outbreak of World War I. These last two pieces of information would indicate a birth year of 1911, although later books contradict this. Rumpole and the Primrose Path, for instance, appeared in 2003 and was set in the present day; however, Rumpole was not 92 but somewhere in his seventies. Nonetheless, when in Rumpole and the Primrose Path Erskine-Brown asks Rumpole what he sings to himself when he is alone, Rumpole replies, "A ballad of the war years."
In general, in the book series, it would seem that Rumpole has been frozen at an age of around 70 years for the duration of the series, and past events in his life have been retconned in order to fit the time-frame of each specific story. Thus, in the books published in 1996 and before, he proposed to Hilda in 1938, and in books published in 2003 and after, it appears that he neither became a barrister nor met Hilda until after World War II ended in 1945. Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders, containing his first unled case and his engagement to Hilda, takes place in the early 1950s, entirely inconsistent with the early stories. Since 1988, when Phyllida Erskine-Brown became a QC and Soapy Sam Ballard became Head of Chambers, the other characters seem to be similarly frozen in time. In the story Rumpole and the Reign of Terror, Rumpole was still practising in 2006, and Judge Bullingham was still in post. Or perhaps this is a different Judge Bullingham, though this is never stated explicitly. In the 1990 story Rumpole at Sea, Rumpole says of Judge Bullingham: "But now we have lost him." The prior "Mad Bull" was Judge Roger Bullingham, and this Bullingham's name is Leonard.
Rumpole attended "Linklater's" (a fictional minor public school) and studied law at either Keble College or the fictional "St Joseph's College", Oxford, coming away with "a dubious third". He would not be eligible to be called to the Bar in England today, as a lower second is the minimum degree requirement. He was called to the bar at the "Outer Temple" (a fictional Inn of Court, named on the analogy of the Inner Temple, where John Mortimer was called, and the Middle Temple.).
Apart from the legal drama in each story, Rumpole also has to deal with his relationships with family and friends. His wife Hilda was proud of her daddy (as she calls him), C.H. Wystan, who was Rumpole's Head of Chambers, and she frequently advocates for Rumpole to seek a higher position in the legal world such as: Head of Chambers or Queen's Counsel or a judgeship. The Rumpoles reside in a cavernous, underheated mansion flat at 25B Froxbury Mansions (sometimes called Froxbury Court), Gloucester Road, London.
Rumpole raises tensions with his American daughter-in-law Erica (Deborah Fallender) because of their differing views (such as her disapproval of his cross-examining a rape victim whom he believed to be lying). His associates' dynamic social positions contrast with his relatively static views, which causes feelings between him and the others to shift over time.
Rumpole retired for a short period of time, moving to Florida to be near his son Nick, a sociology professor and now department head at the University of Miami. Nick is described by Rumpole as "the brains of the family". As a teenager, Nick was educated at a British "public school" (i.e. a private fee-paying school), then went on to study at Oxford University, and later Princeton. His academic visit to Baltimore University was determinant for staying in the USA. Rumpole often says that Nick is proud of his father's work in criminal law, and enjoyed his accounts of his cases and "harmless legal anecdotes". However, as Nick grew older, father and son start to grow apart, because Nick doesn't agree with Rumpole's attitudes towards the law, criminals, judges, justice or his own family life.
The origins of Rumpole of the Bailey lie in "Infidelity Took Place", a one-off filmed television play for the BBC's 1960s television anthology drama series, The Wednesday Play that was written by John Mortimer and broadcast by BBC TV on 18 May 1968. This satirical play – a comment on newly enacted English divorce laws – told the story of a happily married couple who decide to get divorced to take advantage of the more beneficial tax situation they would enjoy were they legally separated. The play features a character, Leonard Hoskins (played by John Nettleton), a divorce lawyer with a domineering mother, who can be seen as an early prototype of Horace Rumpole.
In the mid-1970s, Mortimer approached BBC producer Irene Shubik, who had overseen "Infidelity Took Place" and who was now one of the two producers overseeing Play For Today - the successor series to The Wednesday Play as the BBC's strand for contemporary drama. Mortimer presented an idea for a new play, titled "My Darling Prince, Peter Kropotkin", that centred on a barrister called Horace Rumbold. Rumbold would have a particular interest in nineteenth-century anarchists, especially the Russian Peter Kropotkin from whom the title of the play was drawn. The character's name was later changed to Horace Rumpole when it was discovered that there was a real barrister called Horace Rumbold. The title of the play was briefly changed to "Jolly Old Jean Jacques Rousseau" before settling on the less esoteric "Rumpole of the Bailey".
Mortimer was keen on Michael Hordern for the role of Rumpole. When Hordern proved unavailable, the part went to Australian-born actor Leo McKern. Mortimer was initially unenthusiastic about McKern's casting but changed his opinion upon seeing him at rehearsal. Cast as Hilda was Joyce Heron, who played the character as a much tougher individual than that later seen in the eventual series. Aside from Rumpole and his family, no other characters who would eventually be series regulars were seen in the Play For Today production of Rumpole of the Bailey—with the possible exception of a fellow lawyer named George, who could be an early version of eventual series character George Frobisher. (Note that in the series, George Frobisher was played in a very different style by a different actor).
Rumpole of the Bailey made its television debut on 17 December 1975 to good reviews by the critics.
Aware of the potential for further stories centred on Rumpole, Irene Shubik approached the BBC's Head of Plays, Christopher Morahan, and obtained permission from him to commission a further six Rumpole of the Bailey scripts from John Mortimer. However, Morahan left his post at the BBC a short time later and his successor was not interested in turning Rumpole of the Bailey into a series. At around this time, Shubik was contacted by Verity Lambert, Head of Drama at Thames Television, who was looking for ideas for an up-market drama series. Impressed with Rumpole of the Bailey, Lambert offered Shubik the opportunity to bring the series to Thames. John Mortimer readily agreed, since it would mean more money, and Shubik (and Rumpole) duly left the BBC in late 1976.
Rumpole of the Bailey made its Thames Television debut on 3 April 1978 in a series of six episodes. These introduced and established the supporting characters including Guthrie Featherstone (Peter Bowles), Claude Erskine-Browne (Julian Curry) and Phyllida Trant (Patricia Hodge). The role of Hilda was recast, with Peggy Thorpe-Bates taking on the part. Other than McKern, David Yelland (who played Rumpole's son Nick) was the only cast member from the BBC Play For Today who also became a regular in the series.
Rob Page's title sequence, featuring amusing caricatures of Rumpole, was inspired by the nineteenth-century cartoonist George Cruikshank, who had illustrated the works of Charles Dickens. The music was composed by Joseph Horovitz, whose extensive use of the bassoon for Rumpole's theme complemented Leo McKern's portly stature and sonorous voice. Mortimer continued to work as a barrister while writing the series, rising at 5:30am to write scripts before going to work at the Old Bailey. The series was critically acclaimed ("Not to be missed. Leo McKern is superb as the wild and witty barrister Rumpole" – The Times; "I wouldn't say the BBC threw away a pearl richer than all its tribe but it has mislaid a tasty box of kippers" – Nancy Banks-Smith, The Guardian) and Thames quickly commissioned a second season. However, upset to see that her pay had reduced while McKern and Mortimer had received increases for the second season, Shubik's relationship with Verity Lambert deteriorated and, in the end, she quit Thames after commissioning three of the six scripts for the second season. Shubik moved to Granada Television, where she produced an acclaimed adaptation of Paul Scott's Staying On and set up, but did not produce, The Jewel in the Crown, the follow-up adaptation of Scott's Raj Quartet. Rumpole of the Bailey continued under a new production team.
Television series cast
In total, seven series of Rumpole of the Bailey were made from 1978 to 1992, each consisting of six episodes. A special two-hour film, Rumpole's Return, was made and aired in 1980, between the 2nd and 3rd series. The author, John Mortimer, occasionally appeared as an extra.
Rumpole and his family:
- Horace W. Rumpole: Self-described "Old Bailey hack" who defends any and all clients, and never pleads guilty. His strong preference is for criminal cases, but has occasionally taken on family law and libel cases. He usually defends clients dependent on legal aid, but sometimes represents paying clients, which he calls "money briefs". He loves quoting poetry, especially works by William Wordsworth.
- Hilda Rumpole (Peggy Thorpe-Bates) (Series 1–3 and Special); (Marion Mathie) (Series 4–7): Privately referred to by Rumpole as "She Who Must Be Obeyed". She would dearly love to see Rumpole become a QC, Head of Chambers or a judge – none of which is a role to which Rumpole aspires. Played by Joyce Heron in the original BBC Play For Today.
- Nicholas Rumpole (David Yelland) (Play for Today, plus Series 1–2); (Ian Gelder) (Special only): "The brains of the family", as Rumpole calls him, Nick and his father are especially close. Nick studied PPE at Oxford and then sociology at Princeton. He eventually moves to the United States (first Baltimore, then Miami) to work as a professor of sociology.
Members of Rumpole's Chambers at 3 Equity Court, London:
- Sir Guthrie Featherstone (Peter Bowles) (Series 1–2, Special, and as an occasional guest star in series 3–7). The well-connected if occasionally feckless Head of Chambers, he "took silk" (becoming a Queen's Counsel) and was elected to Parliament as a Social Democratic Party member early in the series (and thus is usually mock-reverently referred to by Rumpole as "our learned Head of Chambers, Guthrie Featherstone QC, MP"). He is an alumnus of Marlborough College, and becomes a High Court judge after the third series, and is embroiled in a number of controversies after being promoted to the bench.
- Samuel Ballard (Peter Blythe) (Series 3–7): Head of Chambers in later series; a very pious and priggish person, and like his predecessor, a Marlborough alumnus. Rumpole refers to him as "Soapy Sam" which is an allusion to a much parodied nineteenth-century Bishop of Winchester, and generally addresses him as "Bollard". Later became a judge in the ecclesiastical courts, while maintaining his role as Head of Chambers.
- Phyllida (Trant) Erskine-Brown (Patricia Hodge) (Series 1–2, Special, and as an occasional guest star in series 3–7). First appeared in episode four in the first series as Erskine-Brown's (and later Rumpole's) pupil, Phyllida Trant. The "Portia of our Chambers", Phyllida is a strong advocate with definite opinions of her own. Usually, but not always, sides with Rumpole in Chambers matters. She eventually becomes a Q.C., then a Recorder, and then a High Court judge.
- Claude Leonard Erskine-Brown (Julian Curry): Phyllida's husband, "opera buff and hopeless cross-examiner", and sometime would-be philanderer. Eventually promoted to Assistant Recorder, and later Q.C. through Phyllida's manoeuverings (upon hearing of his promotion, Judge Graves remarked "They must be handing out silk gowns with pounds of tea nowadays!") He particularly loves the operas of Wagner, and his (and Phyllida's) children are named Tristan and Isolde. He frowns upon Rumpole's clientele, having a largely civil practice, with only an occasional criminal prosecution. Despite this attitude, Rumpole helps Eskine-Brown out in important personal matters without Erskine-Brown's knowledge. He attended Bogstead School, Winchester College and New College, Oxford.
- T.C. Rowley, widely known as "Uncle Tom" (Richard Murdoch) (Series 1–6 and Special). "The oldest member of Chambers, who has not had a brief as long as any of us can remember." He is usually seen happily practising his golf putting in the clerk's room, or offering cheerfully inappropriate comments in Chambers meetings.
- George Frobisher (Moray Watson) (Series 1–2, Special, and as an occasional guest star in Series 3–5). A sensible if somewhat stiff barrister and Rumpole's closest friend in Chambers. Later a Circuit Judge, at which point their relationship cools. A former Army officer, Frobisher becomes a Judge Advocate for the British Army in later series.
- Percy Hoskins (Norman Ettlinger) (Series 1, Episode 1 only); (Denys Graham) (Series 3–6): A rather minor character, Hoskins seems chiefly concerned with keeping other lawyers from being admitted to Chambers, lest they take away his work. Often prefaces his arguments with the phrase "Speaking as a man with daughters..." Later promoted to a judgeship.
- Fiona Allways (Rosalyn Landor) (Series 3 only): Originally Phyllida Erskin-Brown's pupil, Rumpole took a liking to her, mentored her, and got her admitted to Chambers. A member of the landed gentry, the character left Chambers to get married, and was replaced by Liz Probert.
- Liz Probert (Samantha Bond) (Series 4); Played by Leo McKern's daughter Abigail McKern; (Series 5–7): An outspoken young feminist barrister in Rumpole's chambers, who describes herself as a "young radical" and is referred to by Rumpole as "Miz Liz". Her father "Red Ron" is a prominent trade union official. Rumpole's wife Hilda once suspected him of having an affair with Liz. Introduced in episode 2 in series 4 and becomes Rumpole's pupil.
- Dave Inchcape: (Michael Grandage) (Series 5, Episode 6 only); (Christopher Milburn) (Series 6–7): A young lawyer who has a sometimes stormy relationship with "Miz Liz".
- Charles Hearthstoke: (Nicholas Gecks) (Series 4, Episodes 4, 6; Series 5, episode 4): Called "Hearthrug" by Rumpole. Another young lawyer, brought in by Ballard at least in part to streamline the operations of Chambers, a move Rumpole and Henry both opposed for differing reasons. Hearthstoke woos Liz Probert during his stint in Chambers, but is ultimately forced out by Rumpole. After departing, he is later tempted to return by the possibility of a romantic "adventure" with Phyllida. Rumpole's intervention prevents this.
Other Staff at 3 Equity Court, London:
- Albert Handyside (Derek Benfield) (Series 1–2 and Special): The original clerk of Chambers. Fired in the third episode, he remains friendly with Rumpole and gets him the occasional case from the firm of solicitors that he joins as a clerk.
- Henry Trench (Jonathan Coy): Albert's successor as the efficient but harried clerk of Chambers. Unhappily married, Henry is also an amateur dramatics enthusiast, frequently appearing in works by Noël Coward. Henry's wife is active in local politics and serves as a member and later mayor of their local borough council.
- Diane (Maureen Darbyshire) (Series 1–6 and Special): The oft-seen but rarely heard Chambers secretary, and Henry's flame. She eventually leaves Chambers and marries.
- Dot Clapton (Camille Coduri) (Series 7): The new Chambers secretary after Diane leaves. A friendly chatterbox, especially in contrast to the quiet Diane.
Frequent courtroom allies and adversaries:
- Mr Bernard (Edward de Souza) (Series 1); (Denis Lill) (Series 3–7): An instructing solicitor who frequently presents Rumpole with clients – often a hapless member of the Timson clan. Known to Rumpole as "Bonny Bernard".
- His Honour Judge Roger Bullingham (Bill Fraser) (Series 1–4 and Special): "The Mad Bull", Rumpole's most notorious courtroom enemy. Noted for his intense dislike of defending barristers in general, and of Rumpole in particular.
- Mr Justice Vosper (Donald Eccles) (Series 2): A humourless, elderly judge who does not like Rumpole.
- Detective Inspector Brush (Struan Rodger) (Series 2–5): A police officer intent on seeing accused criminals put away. Rumpole is generally contemptuous of Inspector Brush and his "unreliable notebook".
- Mr Justice Gerald Graves (Robin Bailey) (Series 4–7): Another in a long line of judges who dislikes Rumpole's courtroom theatrics. Privately referred to by Rumpole as "Mr. Justice Gravestone", and once referred to as "Mr. Injustice Death's Head". Originally merely Judge Graves, elevated to high court status in the series 6 episode "Rumpole at Sea."
- Mr Justice Oliver Oliphant (James Grout) (Series 6–7): A judge whose affectations of Northern bluntness and "common sense" drive Rumpole to distraction and disdain.
Others in Rumpole's life:
- Lady Marigold Featherstone (Joanna Van Gyseghem): Guthrie's social-climbing wife.
- Fred Timson (Peter Childs) (Series 1–2); (John Bardon) (Series 4–7): Head of the Timson clan, a family of "minor South London villains". The Timsons, who specialise in non-violent petty theft, often turn to Rumpole to defend them against charges arising from their latest brush with the law. Although many Timsons are seen through the course of the series, only Fred and Dennis (below) are series regulars.
- Dennis Timson (Ron Pember) (Series 4–7): Another member of the Timson clan who frequently requires Rumpole's services, either for himself or for a family member.
- Peter "Peanuts" Molloy (David Squire) (Series 1, Episode1; Series 4, Episode 6; Series 5, Episode 4): Member of the Molloy family, archrivals of the Timsons. This legume-lover has frequent run-ins with the law. Also known to date April Timson, wife of Tony Timson.
- Jack Pomeroy (Peter Whitaker) (Series 1); (Eric Dodson) (Series 3–5): Owner of Pomeroy's Wine Bar, to which Rumpole often repairs for a glass of "Pomeroy's Plonk".
- Keith (Peter Cartwright) (Series 2 & 5): Almost invariably referred to as "Old Keith from the Lord Chancellor's office". Has the ear of the Lord Chancellor, and is largely responsible (it seems) for determining who will be promoted to Queen's Counsel, or to judgeships.
- Dodo Mackintosh (Ann Way) (Series 3–5): A school friend of Hilda's who is often mentioned. Barely tolerated by Rumpole, she stops by to visit the Rumpoles on several occasions. Her maiden name is Dodo Perkins.
- F. I. G. "Fig" Newton (Jim Norton) (Series 3); (Frank Mills) (Series 5–6): Rumpole's favourite private investigator, who is usually battling a cold as he's often called on to tail suspects through the pouring rain. In his first appearance, when played by Norton, he introduces himself as Ferdinand Ian Gilmour Newton. All later appearances were by Mills, and in these appearances Rumpole refers to him as Ferdinand Isaac Gerald Newton.
- Marguerite "Matey" Ballard (Rowena Cooper) (Series 5–7): The matron of the Old Bailey and widow of Mr Plumstead, who later becomes "Soapy Sam" Ballard's incongruously blunt wife.
Between 1980 and 2015 there were a number of different BBC radio productions derived from the Rumpole stories. Essentially there were two different series and three Christmas specials - yielding a grand total of 40 episodes. Some were new radio adaptations of scripts previously produced for TV; some were special radio adaptations of stories first published in book format after the end of the final TV series and some were brand-new, purpose-written episodes created for radio.
Five different actors - including Leo McKern - portrayed Horace Rumpole in these 40 different episodes.
1980 - One series - a total of thirteen episodes featured Maurice Denham as Horace Rumpole.
2003 - 2012 - In this period there were seven mini-seasons - a total of eighteen episodes featuring Timothy West as Horace Rumpole. West's real-life wife Prunella Scales appeared as Rumpole's wife Hilda. The seven mini-seasons were produced in 2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012. In the latter two mini-seasons (2010 and 2012) there were also actors - Benedict Cumberbatch and Jasmine Hyde - portraying the "young Rumpole" and "young Hilda".
2014 - 2015 - In this period there were two mini-seasons - a total of six episodes featuring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jasmine Hyde reprising their roles as "young" Rumpole and Hilda (these episodes did not feature West and Scales as the present-day Rumpoles).
2016 - In this period there were two mini-series - a total of four episodes with Julian Rhind-Tutt taking over the role of Rumpole and Jasmine Hyde reprising her role as Hilda.
There were also three one-off Christmas specials produced by BBC Radio in 1996, 1997 and 2001. Featuring respectively Timothy West, Leo McKern and Desmond Barrit as Horace Rumpole.
There were a grand total of 44 episodes. Seven seasons each consisting of six episodes - with each episode approximately 50 minutes in duration. And two individual dramas in 1975 and 1980 (65 minutes and 103 minutes respectively) that aired outside of the regular seasons but that are considered part of the overall Rumpole television canon.
All listed dates indicate first UK transmission date
One-Off for BBC TV's Play for Today Series (1975)
- "Rumpole of the Bailey" (16 December 1975) [Set in 1974]
- (Re-titled "Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt" for radio adaptation in 1980 and for DVD release in 2007)
- This was a stand-alone production in 1975 for BBC TV's anthology series "Play for Today". Duration: circa 65 minutes. It inspired the seven-season TV series that aired 1978-1992. Though not conceived as such, it was a de facto 'pilot' for the subsequent TV series.
TV Season One (1978)
- "Rumpole and the Younger Generation" (3 April 1978) [Set in 1967]
- "Rumpole and the Alternative Society" (10 April 1978) [Set in 1970]
- "Rumpole and the Honourable Member" (17 April 1978) [Set in 1974]
- "Rumpole and the Married Lady" (24 April 1978) [Set in 1975]
- "Rumpole and the Learned Friends" (1 May 1978) [Set in 1976]
- "Rumpole and the Heavy Brigade" (15 May 1978) [Set in 1977]
- (All six stories in TV Season One were adapted into literary form by John Mortimer and published in the 1978 book "Rumpole of the Bailey")
TV Season Two (1979)
- "Rumpole and the Man of God" (29 May 1979)
- "Rumpole and the Case of Identity" (5 June 1979)
- "Rumpole and the Show Folk" (12 June 1979)
- "Rumpole and the Fascist Beast" (19 June 1979)
- "Rumpole and the Course of True Love" (26 June 1979)
- "Rumpole and the Age for Retirement" (3 July 1979)
- (All six stories in TV Season Two were adapted into literary form by John Mortimer and published in the 1979 book "The Trials of Rumpole")
One-Off Special Episode (1980)
- "Rumpole's Return" (30 December 1980)
- This production was created as a stand-alone, feature-length TV film in 1980. Duration: circa 103 minutes. It aired between Season Two and Season Three.
TV Season Three (1983)
- "Rumpole and the Genuine Article" (11 October 1983)
- "Rumpole and the Golden Thread" (18 October 1983)
- "Rumpole and the Old Boy Net" (25 October 1983)
- "Rumpole and the Female of the Species" (1 November 1983)
- "Rumpole and the Sporting Life" (8 November 1983)
- "Rumpole and the Last Resort" (15 November 1983)
- (All six stories in TV Season Three were adapted into literary form by John Mortimer and published in the 1983 book "Rumpole and the Golden Thread")
TV Season Four (1987)
- "Rumpole and the Old, Old Story" (19 January 1987)
- "Rumpole and the Blind Tasting" (26 January 1987)
- "Rumpole and the Official Secret" (2 February 1987)
- "Rumpole and the Judge's Elbow" (9 February 1987)
- "Rumpole and the Bright Seraphim" (16 February 1987)
- "Rumpole's Last Case" (25 February 1987)
- (All six stories in TV Season Four were adapted into literary form by John Mortimer and published in the 1987 book "Rumpole's Last Case")
TV Season Five (1988)
- "Rumpole and the Bubble Reputation" (23 November 1988)
- "Rumpole and the Barrow Boy" (30 November 1988)
- "Rumpole and the Age of Miracles" (7 December 1988)
- "Rumpole and the Tap End" (14 December 1988)
- "Rumpole and Portia" (21 December 1988)
- "Rumpole and the Quality of Life" (28 December 1988)
- (All six stories in TV Season Five were adapted into literary form by John Mortimer and published in the 1988 book "Rumpole and the Age of Miracles")
TV Season Six (1991)
- "Rumpole à la Carte" (28 October 1991)
- "Rumpole and the Summer of Discontent" (4 November 1991)
- "Rumpole and the Right to Silence" (11 November 1991)
- "Rumpole at Sea" (18 November 1991)
- "Rumpole and the Quacks" (25 November 1991)
- "Rumpole for the Prosecution" (2 December 1991)
- (All six stories in TV Season Six were adapted into literary form by John Mortimer and published in the 1990 book "Rumpole à la Carte")
TV Season Seven (1992)
- "Rumpole and the Children of the Devil" (29 October 1992)
- "Rumpole and the Miscarriage of Justice" (5 November 1992)
- "Rumpole and the Eternal Triangle" (12 November 1992)
- "Rumpole and the Reform of Joby Jonson" (19 November 1992)
- "Rumpole and the Family Pride" (26 November 1992)
- "Rumpole on Trial" (3 December 1992)
- (All six stories in TV Season Seven were adapted into literary form by John Mortimer and published in the 1992 book "Rumpole on Trial")
The seven seasons of the programme and the Rumpole's Return special episode are available on DVD and as part of a single DVD box set, published by Fremantle Media. The Play for Today (The Confession of Guilt) is also available on DVD, released separately by Acorn Media.
A&E Home Video released the entire series on DVD in Region 1 between 2004–2006. It was initially released in season sets then on 28 February 2006, they released Rumpole of the Bailey a 14-disc box set with all 42 episodes.
Radio seasons and episodes
There have been two series of Rumpole stories adapted for radio and three stand-alone radio specials.
The second series has consisted to date of ten short "mini-seasons" - totaling 28 episodes. The series started in 2003 and was still being produced as of 2016. The first seven mini-seasons starred Timothy West as Horace Rumpole and his real-life wife Prunella Scales as Hilda. Two latter mini-seasons have starred Benedict Cumberbatch as Rumpole and Jasmine Hyde as Hilda, with Julian Rhind-Tutt replacing Cumberbatch in the latest mini-season (2016).
Rumpole: The Splendours and Miseries of an Old Bailey Hack (1980)
A single series of 13 episodes. Broadcast July–October 1980
- "Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt" (21 July 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Dear Departed" (28 July 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Gentle Art of Blackmail" (4 August 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Rotten Apple" (11 August 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Man of God" (18 August 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Defence of Guthrie Featherstone" (25 August 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Show Folk" (1 September 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Fascist Beast" (8 September 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Case of Identity" (15 September 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Expert Witness " (22 September 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Course of True Love" (29 September 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Perils of the Sea" (6 October 1980)
- "Rumpole and the Age of Retirement" (13 October 1980)
- Six of the thirteen episodes were brand-new, specially-written stories - created by Mortimer exclusively for the 1980 BBC Radio series. Those six stories were never adapted for television. (Episodes above: 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 12)
- Six of the thirteen episodes were new special radio adaptations by Mortimer of all six stories featured in TV Series Two (Episodes above: 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 13)
- One of the thirteen episodes was a new special radio adaptation by Mortimer of the original one-off TV play that he wrote for BBC TV's Play For Today in 1975 - that inspired the subsequent TV series. (Episode 1 above)
- (The six specially-written new stories in the 1980 radio series were adapted into literary form by John Mortimer and published in the 1981 book "Regina V. Rumpole" - together with Mortimer's adaptation of his 1975 "Play For Today" Rumpole story - which also featured in the radio series. This book did not include the six stories in the radio series that were adapted from TV Series Two as those six stories had been published in the 1979 book "The Trials of Rumpole." The "Regina V. Rumpole" book was re-published in 1982 under the title "Rumpole for the Defence".)
Rumpole of the Bailey (2003-present)
Ten mini-seasons (to date). Broadcast 2003-2016.
- "Rumpole and the Primrose Path" (24 September 2003)
- "Rumpole and the Scales of Justice" (1 October 2003)
- "Rumpole and the Vanishing Juror" (8 October 2003)
- "Rumpole Redeemed" (15 October 2003)
- The mini-season consisted of four radio plays each of 45 minutes duration. All four stories were adapted from a book published in 2002 of six brand-new Rumpole short stories by John Mortimer - titled "Rumpole and the Primrose Path"
- "Rumpole's Return"
- The mini-season consisted of two radio plays both of 45 minutes duration. One story ("The Right to Privacy”) was another adaptation from Mortimer’s 2002 book - "Rumpole and the Primrose Path”. The other story (“The Teenage Werewolf") was adapted from a book of seven new Rumpole short stories by Mortimer published in 2001 - “Rumpole Rests His Case"
- Truth Makes All Things Plain (15 August 2007)
- The Past Catches up with Us All (22 August 2007)
- The mini-season was adapted from a new Rumpole novel by John Mortimer published in 2006 - titled “Rumpole and the Reign of Terror". The adaptation was presented as a radio play in two halves - each of 45 minutes.
- Rumpole on Trial (28 May 2008)
- Going for Silk (29 May 2008)
- The mini-season was adapted from a new Rumpole novel by John Mortimer published in 2007 - titled "The Antisocial Behaviour of Horace Rumpole”. The adaptation was presented as a radio play in two halves - each of 45 minutes.
- Old Unhappy Far-Off Things (19 May 2009)
- Alone and Without a Leader (26 May 2009)
- The mini-season was adapted from a Rumpole novel by John Mortimer published in 2004 - titled "Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders" The adaptation was presented as a radio play in two halves - each of 45 minutes.
- The mini-season consisted of two new adaptations of Rumpole stories that were originally presented in 1992 in Season Seven of the “Rumpole of the Bailey” TV series. The stories were also published in short story form in the 1992 companion book of that series – titled “Rumpole on Trial"
- "Rumpole and the Man of God" (1 March 2012)
- "Rumpole and the Explosive Evidence" (2 March 2012)
- "Rumpole and the Gentle Art of Blackmail" (18 December 2012)
- "Rumpole and the Expert Witness" (25 December 2012)
- The mini-season consisted of four episodes. Two of the episodes ("The Gentle Art of Blackmail" and “The Expert Witness”) were new adaptations of stories that were originally written by John Mortimer especially for the BBC’s 1980 Rumpole radio series. One episode (“Man Of God”) was a new adaptation of a Rumpole story that was originally presented in 1979 in Season Two of the “Rumpole of the Bailey” TV series. The fourth episode (”The Explosive Evidence”) was a new adaptation of a classic Rumpole story.
- The mini-season consisted of two episodes. One of the episodes ("The Old Boy Net”) was a new adaptation of a Rumpole story that was originally presented in 1983 in Season Three of the “Rumpole of the Bailey” TV series. The other episode (“The Sleeping Partners") was a new adaptation of a classic Rumpole story
- "Rumpole and the Portia of our Chambers" (20 March 2015)
- "Rumpole and the Age of Miracles" (20 March 2015)
- "Rumpole and the Bubble Reputation" (21 March 2015)
- "Rumpole and the Tap End" (21 March 2015)
- The mini-season consisted of four new adaptations of Rumpole stories that were originally presented in 1988 in Season Five of the “Rumpole of the Bailey” TV series. The stories were also published in short story form in the 1988 companion book of that series – titled “Rumpole and the Age of Miracles”
- "Rumpole On Trial" (28 March 2016)
- "Rumpole And Hilda" (29 March 2016)
- "Rumpole and Memories of Christmas Past" (25 December 2016)
- "Rumpole and The New Year's Resolutions" (27 December 2016)
Occasional Christmas Radio Specials
There have been three stand-alone radio episodes broadcast by BBC Radio during the Christmas season in different years
- 1996: "Rumpole and the Widow Twankey"
Featuring Timothy West as Rumpole. Produced by Pam Fraser Solomon. First broadcast: December 1996
- This was a new adaptation of a classic Rumpole story and is a reading. not a dramatization.
- 1997: "The Spirit of Christmas"
Featuring Leo McKern as Rumpole. Abridged and directed by Bob Sinfield. Produced by Ken Phillips. First broadcast: 30 December 1997
- This was a new adaptation of a story that was originally written by John Mortimer especially for the BBC’s 1980 Rumpole radio series.
- 2001: "Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces"
Featuring Desmond Barrit as Rumpole. First broadcast: 25 December 2001
- This was an adaptation of a story by John Mortimer – published in his 2002 book of short stories titled “Rumpole Rests His Case”
First publications of short stories and novels
- Rumpole of the Bailey (1978) (adaptations of the scripts of all six stories in TV Season One)
- "Rumpole and the Younger Generation"
- "Rumpole and the Alternative Society"
- "Rumpole and the Honourable Member"
- "Rumpole and the Married Lady"
- "Rumpole and the Learned Friends"
- "Rumpole and the Heavy Brigade"
- The Trials of Rumpole (1979) (adaptations of the scripts of all six stories in TV Season Two)
- "Rumpole and the Man of God"
- "Rumpole and the Showfolk"
- "Rumpole and the Fascist Beast"
- "Rumpole and the Case of Identity"
- "Rumpole and the Course of True Love"
- "Rumpole and the Age for Retirement"
- Rumpole's Return (1980) (novel; adaptation of the script of the stand-alone 1980 TV special)
- Regina V. Rumpole (1981) (adaptations of the scripts of all six stories specially-written for the 1980 BBC Radio series - plus adaptation of the script for the 1975 one-off film for BBC TV's Play for Today Series)
- "Rumpole and the Confession of Guilt"
- "Rumpole and the Gentle Art of Blackmail"
- "Rumpole and the Dear Departed"
- "Rumpole and the Rotten Apple"
- "Rumpole and the Expert Witness"
- "Rumpole and the Spirit of Christmas" (a.k.a. "Rumpole and the Defence of Guthrie Featherstone")
- "Rumpole and the Boat People" (a.k.a. "Rumpole and the Perils of the Sea")
(Re-published in 1982 under the title Rumpole For The Defence)
- Rumpole and the Golden Thread (1983) (adaptations of the scripts of all six stories in TV Season Three)
- "Rumpole and the Genuine Article"
- "Rumpole and the Golden Thread"
- "Rumpole and the Old Boy Net"
- "Rumpole and the Female of the Species"
- "Rumpole and the Sporting Life"
- "Rumpole and the Last Resort"
- Rumpole's Last Case (1987) (adaptations of the scripts of all six stories in TV Season Four - 1987 - plus one additional story not used in the TV series)
- "Rumpole and the Blind Tasting"
- "Rumpole and the Old, Old Story"
- "Rumpole and the Official Secret"
- "Rumpole and the Judge's Elbow"
- "Rumpole and the Bright Seraphim"
- "Rumpole's Last Case"
- "Rumpole and the Winter Break" (story not used in the TV series)
- Rumpole and the Age of Miracles (1988) (adaptations of the scripts of all six stories in TV Season Five - 1988 - plus one additional story not used in the TV series)
- "Rumpole and the Bubble Reputation"
- "Rumpole and the Barrow Boy"
- "Rumpole and the Age of Miracles"
- "Rumpole and the Tap End"
- "Rumpole and Portia"
- "Rumpole and the Quality of Life"
- "Rumpole and the Chambers Party" (story not used in the TV series)
- Rumpole à la Carte (1990) (adaptations of the scripts of all six stories in TV Season Six)
- "Rumpole à la Carte"
- "Rumpole and the Summer of Discontent"
- "Rumpole and the Right to Silence"
- "Rumpole at Sea"
- "Rumpole and the Quacks"
- "Rumpole for the Prosecution"
- 'Rumpole on Trial' (1992) (adaptations of the scripts of all six stories in TV Season Seven - 1992 - plus one additional story not used in the TV series)
- "Rumpole and the Children of the Devil"
- "Rumpole and the Eternal Triangle"
- "Rumpole and the Miscarriage of Justice"
- "Rumpole and the Family Pride"
- "Rumpole and the Reform of Joby Jonson"
- "Rumpole on Trial"
- "Rumpole and the Soothsayer" (story not used in the TV series)
- Rumpole and the Angel of Death (1995) (Book of six new stories)
- "Rumpole and the Model Prisoner"
- "Rumpole and the Way Through the Woods"
- "Hilda's Story"
- "Rumpole and the Little Boy Lost"
- "Rumpole and the Rights of Man"
- "Rumpole and the Angel of Death"
- Rumpole Rests His Case (2001) (Book of seven new stories)
- "Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces"
- "Rumpole and the Remembrance of Things Past"
- "Rumpole and the Asylum Seekers"
- "Rumpole and the Camberwell Carrot"
- "Rumpole and the Actor Laddie"
- "Rumpole and the Teenage Werewolf"
- "Rumpole Rests His Case"
- Rumpole and the Primrose Path (2002) (Book of six new stories)
- "Rumpole and the Primrose Path"
- "Rumpole and the New Year's Resolutions"
- "Rumpole and the Scales of Justice"
- "Rumpole and the Right to Privacy"
- "Rumpole and the Vanishing Juror"
- "Rumpole Redeemed"
- Rumpole and the Penge Bungalow Murders (2004) (new novel)
- Rumpole and the Reign of Terror (2006) (new novel)
- The Anti-social Behaviour of Horace Rumpole (2007) (new novel) published in the USA as Rumpole Misbehaves
Anthologies and collections of previously-published works
There have been six anthologies and collections that have presented previously published Rumpole stories. Three volumes of an "Omnibus" series that each gathered together three previously issued sets of stories into a single book. Two books that each presented a collection of tales drawn from across the broad canon of Rumpole short stories. And one volume of Christmas-themed stories that had each been previously published in a magazine rather than in a Rumpole book.
- The First Rumpole Omnibus (1983)
Contains all six short stories in the 1978 collection "Rumpole of the Bailey"; all six short stories in the 1979 collection "The Trials of Rumpole" and the 1980 single-story novel "Rumpole's Return"
- The Second Rumpole Omnibus (1987)
Contains all seven short stories in the 1981 collection "Regina V. Rumpole"; all six short stories in the 1983 collection "Rumpole and the Golden Thread" and all seven short stories in the 1987 collection "Rumpole's Last Case"
- The Third Rumpole Omnibus (1997)
Contains all seven short stories in the 1988 collection "Rumpole and the Age of Miracles"; all six short stories in the 1990 collection "Rumpole à la Carte" and all six short stories in the 1995 collection "Rumpole and the Angel of Death"
- The Best of Rumpole: A Personal Choice (1993)
Contains seven Rumpole stories personally selected as favourites by John Mortimer.
- "Rumpole and the Younger Generation" - from Rumpole of the Bailey (1978)
- "Rumpole and the Showfolk" - from The Trials of Rumpole (1979)
- "Rumpole and the Bubble Reputation" - from Rumpole and the Age of Miracles (1988)
- "Rumpole and the Tap End" - from Rumpole and the Age of Miracles (1988)
- "Rumpole à la Carte" - from Rumpole à la Carte (1990)
- "Rumpole and the Children of the Devil" - from 'Rumpole on Trial' (1992)
- "Rumpole on Trial" - from 'Rumpole on Trial' (1992)
- Forever Rumpole (2012)
Contains a total of fourteen Rumpole stories, The seven stories that were personally selected as favourites by John Mortimer in the 1993 anthology "The Best of Rumpole: A Personal Choice". Plus the following seven stories selected from the short stories published in the years after the 1993 anthology. (The book also contains the first few pages written by Mortimer for a new story titled "Rumpole and the Brave New World" that he was working on at the time of his death and thus was incomplete.)
- "Rumpole and the Way Through the Woods" - from Rumpole and the Angel of Death (1995)
- "Rumpole and the Angel of Death" - from Rumpole and the Angel of Death (1995)
- "Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces" - from Rumpole Rests His Case (2001)
- "Rumpole Rests His Case" - from Rumpole Rests His Case (2001)
- "Rumpole and the Primrose Path" - from Rumpole and the Primrose Path (2002)
- "Rumpole Redeemed" - from Rumpole and the Primrose Path (2002)
- "Rumpole and the Christmas Break" - from Rumpole at Christmas (2009)
- Rumpole at Christmas (2009)
A collection of seven Christmas-themed short stories - some first published in US or UK magazines
- "Rumpole and the Old Familiar Faces"
- "Rumpole and the Christmas Break"
- "Rumpole and the Boy"
- "Rumpole and Father Christmas"
- "Rumpole and the Health Farm Murder" (US title "Rumpole's Slimmed-down Christmas")
- "Rumpole and the Millennium Bug"
- "Rumpole and the Christmas Party"
(The UK book contained 7 stories. The US version - titled A Rumpole Christmas - contained 5 stories. It omitted "Millennium Bug" and "Christmas Party")
- Sharpe, Brenda J. (2002). "The Rumpolean FAQ".
- The statue of Fortitude and Truth flanking a recording angel above the main entrance was sculptured by Frederick William Pomeroy
- European Sewer Safari
- c.f. Rumpole and the barrow boy, Rumpole and the Golden Thread.
- Daily Telegraph Obituaries (16 January 2009). "Sir John Mortimer: QC who took on liberal causes but found most fame as the creator of the fictional barrister Rumpole". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 September 2012.
- In the first story, it is called "Mulstead".
- Rumpole and the Younger Generation.
- Rumpole and the Gentle Art of Blackmail.
- Angelini, Sergio. "Rumpole of the Bailey (1978–83, 87–92)". Screenonline. Retrieved 2007-04-16.
- Directed by Graham Evans, written by John Mortimer (1978-04-17). "Rumpole and the Honourable Member". Rumpole of the Bailey.
- Rumpole's Return (Television production). Thames Television. 1980.
- Shubik, Play for Today, pp. 101–2.
- Shubik, Play for Today, p. 177.
- Shubik, Play for Today, p. 178.
- Shubik, Play for Today, p. 179.
- Shubik, Play for Today, p. 180.
- Shubik, Play for Today, p. 182.
- Shubik, Play for Today, p. 184.
- Shubik, Play for Today, p. 187.
- Shubik, Play for Today, p. 190.
- Shubik, Play for Today, p. 195.
- Shubik, Play for Today, pp. 198–203.
- Vahimagi, Tise. "Irene Shubik (1935–)". Screenonline. British Film Institute. Retrieved 2007-04-17.
- Cooper, Nick (2001-10-28). "John Mortimer". Retrieved 2007-04-16.
- Rumpole's monogram HWR is clearly seen on the red robe bag he frequently carries. It is most clearly legible in the episode "Rumpole and the Alternative Society". It is never mentioned in the television series what the W stands for.
- Albert is called "Mr. Tree" by Henry in both his appearances in Series 1, but his last name is thereafter Handyside.
- Henry's last name is never spoken aloud by any character, but it can be seen on a poster in the chambers office in a fourth season episode.
- Shubik, Irene (2000) . Play for Today. The evolution of television drama (2nd ed.). Manchester, England: Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-5687-X.
- Linda Tsang (3 December 1998). "Law: Twins Brothers in Law". The Independent.
- Obituary (16 January 2009). "Sir John Mortimer". The Daily Telegraph.
- Simon Farquhar (Dec 2009). "Rumpole of the Bailey". BBC. Archived from the original on 17 March 2011.