Rumpole Of The Bailey, 1978

A personal favourite TV series of the late Alan Simpson.

In a 2014 interview we did with Galton and Simpson we asked ” is there a Television show or a sitcom you didn’t write but wish you had?”  Their reply was: “We’ve written over 600 shows and sketches for many people including Les Dawson and Frankie Howerd, so probably we’ve written about everything we would want to”,.

After a brief pause Alan Simpson told us: “I always love John Mortimer’s work and Rumpole Of The Bailey – I would have quite liked to have written that one so there you go (laughs).”

Rumpole Of The Bailey was created By John Mortimer who was himself a barrister as well as his work as a successful writer.

The series had it’s origins on the BBC in the drama equivelent of ‘Comedy Playhouse’ The Wednesday Play that would later become Play For Today.  The origins of the character came from “Infidelity Took Place”, a one-off filmed television play for the BBC’s 1960s, written by John Mortimer.

Around 1975, 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.  He presented an idea for a new play, titled “My Darling Prince, Peter Kropotkin”, that centred on a barrister called Horace Rumbold.  On realising there was a real barrister by that name the character became Rumpole.  The BBC put the play out as Rumpole Of The Bailey.

Producer Irene Shubik was aware of the potential for further stories about Rumpole and 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.

It was an approach from Verity Lambert, Head of Drama at Thames Television, that lead to Rumpole Of The Bailey becomming an ITV series.  First broadcasst as a series in 1978 it ran for seven series notching up forty four episodes.


Horace Rumpole is seen as an “Old Bailey Hack,” a term used for one of the underpaid barristers who ply the courtrooms of the Old Bailey, London’s famous criminal court.

Rumpole refused to handle most law suits and  never prosecuted.  His speciality was  defence.







Leo McKern


BBC1: 1975 (play)
ITV: 1978 (series)
Created and Written By: John Mortimer
Original Transmission Dates: 17th December 1975 (BBC play)
3rd April 1978 – 3rd December 1992 (Thames TV series)



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