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Bamber Gascoigne, former 'University Challenge' host, has died aged 87

Bamber Gascoigne outside his Surrey home, which also appears in BBC comedy, Ghosts.
Bamber Gascoigne has passed away aged 87. (Image credit: Alamy )

Bamber Gascoigne, the former University Challenge quizmaster, has passed away aged 87 at his home in Richmond after a short illness. 

Gascoigne was the original presenter of University Challenge when it first aired in 1962 and remained in the quizmaster’s chair for 913 episodes before departing in 1987. 

During his time on the show, Gascoigne became best known for his famous catchphrases such as "Fingers on buzzers", "Your starter for 10" and "I'll have to hurry you".

The much-loved quiz show was revived on the BBC in 1994 with Jeremy Paxman as the host.

Bamber Gascoigne

Bamber Gascoigne was the original presenter of 'University Challenge'. (Image credit: Getty)

Gascoigne also presented the 1977 ITV documentary series The Christians and was the writer and presenter for the 1990 Channel 4 TV series The Great Moghuls, about the Moghul Empire of India.

The TV host was also a well-renowned author and found fame after one of the episodes of The Young Ones was named after him in 1984. 

More recently, Mark Gatiss, The League of Gentleman star and Sherlock co-creator played Gascoigne in the 2006 film Starter for Ten.

Gascoigne is survived by his wife Christina, who he was married to for more than 50 years.

Charlotte Ritchie and Kiell Smith-Bynoe in Ghosts

Bamber Gascoigne's Surrey house is home to BBC comedy, 'Ghosts'. (Image credit: (C) Monumental Television)

More recently, Gascoigne's home in Surrey has become familiar to fans of the BBC comedy Ghosts. Called Button Hall in the series, it is in reality West Horsley Park in Surrey

The 15th-century Manor House was left to ex-University Challenge host Bamber by his great-aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe, in 2014. At one point during its history, Henry VIII even seized the property. 

The BBC go to great lengths to make the house look completely run down for filming Ghosts, with the art department using special techniques before filming to add in touches and make it appear dilapidated.

This also isn’t the first time the house has been used on-screen. Back in 2015 the ITV drama Harry Price: Ghost Hunter, starring Rafe Spall, was partly shot there.

Claire Crick
Claire Crick

Claire is Assistant Managing Editor at What To Watch and has been a journalist for over 15 years, writing about everything from soaps and TV to beauty, entertainment, and even the Royal Family. After starting her career at a soap magazine, she ended up staying for 13 years, and over that time she’s pulled pints in the Rovers Return, sung karaoke in the Emmerdale village hall, taken a stroll around Albert Square, and visited Summer Bay Surf Club in sunny Australia. 


After learning some tricks of the trade at websites Digital Spy, Entertainment Daily, and Woman & Home, Claire landed a role at What’s On TV and whattowatch.com writing about all things TV and film, with a particular love for Aussie soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and Bake Off


She’s interviewed everyone from June Brown — AKA Dot Cotton — to Michelle Keegan, swapped cooking tips with baking legend Mary Berry backstage at the NTAs, and danced the night away with soap stars at countless awards bashes. There’s not a lot she doesn’t know about soaps and TV and can be very handy when a soapy question comes up in a pub quiz! 


As well as all things soap-related, Claire also loves running, spa breaks, days out with her kids, and getting lost in a good book.