Rumpole of the Bailey

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Name: Rumpole of the Bailey
Abbreviation(s): Rumpole
Creator: John Mortimer
Date(s): 1975-
Medium: books, tv, radio
Country of Origin: Britain
External Links:
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Rumpole of the Bailey is a British series that has appeared in a variety of formats, including television, books, and radio. Its protagonist, Horace Rumpole [1], is an aging and not wholly successful criminal law barrister who takes on various cases defending an assortment of people accused of criminal offences. The series pokes fun at life at the English Bar and the eccentrics it attracts, while Rumpole—The Oxford Book of English Verse in one hand and Archbold's Criminal Pleading and Practice in the other—gets to the bottom of a number of mysteries, some of which he wishes he hadn't, while triumphing over hostile judges, his wife Hilda ("She Who Must Be Obeyed") and the other members of chambers, who find him something of an embarrassment.

The character first appeared in a Thames Television series which began in 1975, starring Leo McKern in the title role. The series ran for seven seasons and was complemented by tie-in collections of short stories and at least one novel written by John Mortimer, who also wrote the scripts. Mortimer, a barrister himself, was a well-known campaigner for causes such as restrictions on censorship; and issues of social justice frequently arise in the Rumpole stories, though coloured by Mortimer's perspective as a white, public-school educated man brought up within the Establishment.

The series continues in the form of BBC Radio 4 plays, with Timothy West playing the (current day) Old Rumpole and Benedict Cumberbatch playing the young Rumpole in various extended flashback sequences.


As of 2015, there isn't one. This is all the more surprising in that the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of the Rumpole stories, set in the 1950s and early 1960s, has Benedict Cumberbatch playing the young Horace Rumpole [2]. However, given the enthusiasm of Sherlock fans for combining Holmes with all other parts played by Cumberbatch, Rumpole of the Bailey may be thought to be a fandom in waiting.

There are four stories listed on AO3, all of them crossovers.


  1. ^ Wikipedia Rumpole of the Bailey
  2. ^ Benedict Cumberbatch plays Rumpole article on BBC America's website accessed 2015-05-17