Geoffrey Bayldon

Geoffrey Bayldon
Geoffrey Bayldon

Geoffrey Bayldon was born in 1924 in Leeds.   He is best known for his role in the children’s television series “Catweazle” in 1971 and also for “Worzel Gummidge”.   His films include “A Night to Remember” in 1958, “The Camp on Blood Island” and “To Sir with Love” in 1967 with Sidney Poitier and Patricia Routledge.

IMDB entry:

Born Leeds, England and trained at Old Vic Theatre School, 1947-1949. First stage appearance in “Tough at the Top” (C.B. Cochran’s last musical) in 1949, followed by seasons at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon; Glasgow Citizen’s and Birmingham Repertory Theatre. First in London’s west end in “The Happy Time” (1952) and more recently in “Worzel Gummidge”, “A Month of Sundays” “Maria” and “Unfinished Business”. Overseas: played Caesar in “Caesar and Cleopatra” (International Festival, Paris, 1956); Ravinia Shakespeare Festival (Chicago, 1964); Pickering in “My Fair Lady” (Houston, 1991). In 1998 he was nominated as “Best Actor” for the Royal Midland Television Awards for his role as Alby James in an episode of Peak Practice (1993).

– IMDb Mini Biography By: Gordon Lilley <>

The above IMDB entry can also be accessed online here.

Obituary in “The Telegraph” in 2017.

Geoffrey Bayldon, who has died aged 93, was an austere-looking actor with a penchant for absent-minded or eccentric types, none more so than Catweazle, the bungling medieval wizard he played in the children’s television series of the same name, which ran on ITV from 1970 to 1972; he then delighted young viewers as the Crowman in Worzel Gummidge (ITV, 1979-81).

In the first episode of Catweazle, the deliciously bewhiskered and bedraggled old magician (played with convincing battiness by the 46-year-old Bayldon) has time travelled from the 11th to the 20th century after jumping into a moat to escape Norman invaders.

Bayldon as Catweazle

Having woken up in a pond, he finds himself on a farm and is soon befriended by a teenage farmer’s son, Edward “Carrot” Bennett (Robin Davies). Their first conversation begins with Catweazle saying: “Art thou Norman?”, to which Carrot replies: “No, my name’s Edward.”

An amusing feature of the pair’s subsequent adventures is Catweazle’s need to have modern technology explained to him – he calls the telephone the “telling-bone” and electricity “electrickery”; another is Carrot’s need to prevent the jumpy Catweazle from pulling his dagger on strangers.

Catweazle was created by the screenwriter Richard Carpenter, who wrote the series with Bayldon in mind, although the actor was initially sceptical about the project.

Bayldon in 2011

“I knew he was writing something for me,” Bayldon recalled, “and I thought, ‘Poor dear, he must be hard up. It’s going to be dreadful.’ But my agent rang and said, ‘Geoffrey, I’ve read the first page and I’ve never read anything so magical in my life. I tingled with joy. I’m sending it to you straightaway.’ I read the first page and … I thought it was wonderful.”

Part of the appeal of the series lay in the gentle friendship forged between Catweazle and Carrot, but Bayldon, a fine stage actor, stole the show as the eccentric and endearing wizard. At a time when, as Bayldon later observed, “everything was serious, working-class” Catweazle had “magic, comedy and a little tinge of tragedy”. More than 40 years on Catweazle continues to have a cult following and a loyal and active fan club.

The son of a tailor and a headmistress, Geoffrey Bayldon was born in Leeds on January 7 1924 and educated at Bridlington School and Hull College of Architecture. He began acting in amateur theatricals, and spent his war years stationed with the RAF in Yorkshire before moving to London in 1947 to train at the Old Vic Theatre School. His first professional role was in C B Cochran’s last production, Tough at the Top (1949).

Catweazle: an eccentric and bumbling wizard
Catweazle: an eccentric and bumbling wizard CREDIT: ITV/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Bayldon then joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (appearing, in 1950, in Measure for Measure and Julius Caesar with John Gielgud) before moving to the Birmingham Repertory Theatre and the Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre.

By the late 1950s he was working regularly in television and he had roles in the ITV Play of the Week, as well as in The Avengers (1961, 1967) and Z-cars (1963, 1968). In 1963 he was offered the role of the first Doctor Who, but turned it down thinking – erroneously, as it turned out – that he was not suited to playing an eccentric old man. (In 1979 he did eventually appear in three episodes of the show, playing Organon the astrologer.)

After the success of Catweazle, he was offered the part of the mysterious Crowman, the scarecrow maker in Worzel Gummidge. This time Bayldon was the straight man to Jon Pertwee’s delightfully bonkers Worzel, whose antics are kept in check by the wise Crowman (“I am the Crowman, Worzel, and I know when you’re telling the truth”) and of whom Worzel is more than a little nervous, calling him “Mr Crowman, sir, your worship, sir, your holiness”.

Bayldon in The Avengers, 1961
Bayldon in The Avengers, 1961

Bayldon continued to work regularly on the small screen in shows such as Tales of the Unexpected (1980 and 1983), All Creatures Great and Small (1983), Blott on the Landscape (1985), Rumpole of the Bailey (1987) and The Chronicles of Narnia (1989). He was also involved in a number of BBC Schools programmes.

He played memorable character parts in countless films including Dracula and A Night to Remember (both 1958), To Sir, with Love (1967), Casino Royale (1967, in which he played “Q”, opposite Peter Sellers), The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976), Porridge (1979) and Bullshot (1983).

His later theatre work included, in 1986, a performance described by The Daily Telegraph’s John Barber as “beautiful”, opposite George Cole in Bob Larbey’s A Month of Sundays. Bayldon played one of two old codgers manfully resisting dehumanisation in an old people’s home.

In 1986, he recorded the vocals for the synth-pop composer Paul Hardcastle’s The Wizard. Among his later television appearances were the role of the Professor in the Channel Five game show Fort Boyard (1998-2001), and in Waking the Dead (2004), Heartbeat (2004) and several episodes of Casualty. He recorded a number of audiobooks, including Doctor Who, and worked on several radio plays.

Geoffrey Bayldon lived for many years in Putney, where he enjoyed gardening, walking and painting.

In the late 1940s he was briefly married, to Joan, and the marriage was dissolved; he is survived by a brother.

Geoffrey Bayldon, born January 7 1924, died May 10 2017

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *