Bamber Gascoigne

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Bamber Gascoigne

Bamber Gascoigne.JPG
Gascoigne in 2006
Arthur Bamber Gascoigne

(1935-01-24) 24 January 1935 (age 86)[1]
London, England
EducationSunningdale School
Eton College
Alma materMagdalene College, Cambridge
Yale University
OccupationTelevision presenter, historian, author
Known forOriginal quizmaster of University Challenge
Christina Ditchburn
(m. 1965)

Arthur Bamber Gascoigne CBE, FRSL (born 24 January 1935) is an English television presenter and author. He was the original quizmaster on University Challenge, which initially ran from 1962 to 1987.

Early life and education[edit]

Gascoigne is the elder son of Lieutenant-Colonel Derek Ernest Frederick Orby Gascoigne (himself the son of Brigadier-General Sir Ernest Frederick Orby Gascoigne and Laura Cicely, daughter of General Edward Henry Clive, of that family of Styche Hall, Shropshire from which also came the famous soldier and administrator of India Robert Clive)[3] by his marriage in 1934 to Mary ("Midi")[4][5] Louisa Hermione O'Neill, a daughter of Captain the Hon. Arthur Edward Bruce O'Neill and Lady Annabel Hungerford Crewe-Milnes.[1]

His great-grandfathers include Robert Crewe-Milnes, 1st Marquess of Crewe, and Edward O'Neill, 2nd Baron O'Neill.[1] He is a nephew of Sir Julian Gascoigne, who was in charge of the Household Division during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and of Terence O'Neill, Prime Minister of Northern Ireland 1963–1969.[6]

He is a direct descendant of the 18th-century Lord Mayor of London Sir Crisp Gascoyne and the Tory politicians Bamber Gascoyne (the elder) and Isaac Gascoyne. Isaac's son General Ernest Frederick Gascoyne, of Raby Hall, Liverpool (1796–1867),[2] was his great-great-great-grandfather.[2]

Gascoigne was born in London and educated at Sunningdale School in Berkshire before winning scholarships to both Eton College and Magdalene College, Cambridge (1955), where he read English literature.[7] While at Magdalene he wrote a musical, Share My Lettuce, which was produced in London in 1957 by Michael Codron, and performed by Maggie Smith and Kenneth Williams (with music by Keith Statham and Patrick Gowers).[8] He then spent a year as a Commonwealth Fund scholar at Yale University (1958–59). After National Service in the Grenadier Guards, he became a theatre critic.[7] He met his wife, Christina, at Cambridge, and they married in 1965.[3][4][9]

University Challenge[edit]

Gascoigne was the original presenter (from 1962) of the television quiz show University Challenge,[8] based on the US series College Bowl. He held the position for 25 years, until the end of the initial run in 1987.[10] His questioning manner was regarded as firm yet polite.[11] Phrases he often used which became catchphrases include: "Your starter for ten", "fingers on buzzers” and "I'll have to hurry you."[12] In 1984 he was famously parodied by Griff Rhys-Jones on the alternative comedy series The Young Ones, in an episode entitled 'Bambi'.

Television and books[edit]

Gascoigne is the author of Murgatroyd's Empire, a 1972 satirical novel concerning an entrepreneur who finds an island of pygmies, and trades them arms for treasure, recreating the development of European medieval weaponry and armour.

In 1977, Gascoigne wrote and presented The Christians,[13] a 13-hour television documentary series on the history of Christianity, produced by Granada Television and broadcast on ITV. He wrote a companion book, under the same title, with photography by his wife, Christina Gascoigne, published by Jonathan Cape.

Gascoigne wrote Quest for the Golden Hare, a 1983 account of the internationally publicised treasure hunt associated with the publication in 1979 of Kit Williams' book, Masquerade. On 8 August 1979, Gascoigne was witness to the burial by Williams of a unique jewelled, solid gold hare pendant in an earthenware jar "somewhere in Britain". The book documents the search and a scandal associated with finding it.

In 1987, Gascoigne presented a documentary series of six 30-minute programmes on Victorian history, Victorian Values, which looked at how Victorian society put in place the infrastructure of the modern welfare state, also produced by Granada Television.[14]

Gascoigne was the writer and presenter for the TV series The Great Moghuls (1990), a study of the Mughal Empire of India.[15] The series was based on Gascoigne's 1971 book of the same name, which features photographs by his wife.[15]

Other activities[edit]

Gascoigne has established an online history encyclopaedia, HistoryWorld,[16] and TimeSearch[17] which presents multiple searchable timelines collected from various websites.[18]

In August 2014, Gascoigne was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[19]

On the death of his grand-aunt Mary Innes-Ker, Duchess of Roxburghe, in 2014,[20] he inherited an estate at West Horsley, Surrey, including West Horsley Place, a large country house dating from the 16th century.[21][22] Gascoigne has been selling some of the late Duchess's possessions in order to invest in restoring the house.[23] An original pencil and chalk study for the well-known painting Flaming June by Sir Frederic Leighton was found on the back of a bedroom door. Art historians had known a sketch existed as it had been included in an art magazine in 1895, but did not know who owned it; it was probably bought by the Duchess's paternal grandfather after Leighton's death.[24]

Since 2019, West Horsley Place has been used as the filming location for the fictional Button House, in the BBC TV comedy series Ghosts.

Gascoigne was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2018 Birthday Honours for services to the Arts.[25]

External interests[edit]

Gascoigne is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (elected 1976).[26] He has served as a trustee of the National Gallery, a trustee of the Tate Gallery, a member of the council of the National Trust, and as a member of the board of directors of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.[10] He is a patron of the Museum of Richmond.[27]

Personal life[edit]

Gascoigne is married to Christina (née Ditchburn), daughter of civil servant Alfred Henry Ditchburn CBE[1][2] whom he met at Cambridge. They have lived in Richmond, London, since the late 1960s.[13]

Selected publications[edit]

  • 1962: Twentieth Century Drama, London: Hutchinson University Library ISBN 978-0-0906-5843-5[28]
  • 1968: World Theatre: An Illustrated History, Ebury Press ISBN 978-0316305006
  • 1971: The Great Moghuls (with photographs by Christina Gascoigne), London: Jonathan Cape; New York: Harper & Row[15]
  • 1973: The Treasures and Dynasties of China (with photographs by Christina Gascoigne and Derrick Witty), Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-00925-7 Republished 2003 as A Brief History of the Dynasties of China ISBN 1-84119-791-2
  • 1973: The Heyday (novel), Jonathan Cape ISBN 978-0224009058
  • 1974: Ticker Khan: A Fable, Jonathan Cape ISBN 978-022-401061-0
  • 1975: Castles of Great Britain (introduction; with Christina Gascoigne), Thames and Hudson, ISBN 0-500-24098-1
  • 1977: The Christians (with photographs by Christina Gascoigne), London: Jonathan Cape; New York: William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-03220-6 Revised and republished 2003 as A Brief History of Christianity, Robinson Publishing ISBN 1-84119-710-6[29]
  • 1981: Why the Rope Went Tight (children's stories, with pictures by Christina Gascoigne), London: Methuen; New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books ISBN 978-0688005900
  • 1982: Fearless Freddy's Sunken Treasure (children's stories, with pictures by Christina Gascoigne), London: Methuen ISBN 0-416-06510-4[30]
  • 1982: Fearless Freddy's Magic Wish (children's stories, with pictures by Christina Gascoigne), London: Methuen ISBN 978-0-416-06520-6
  • 1983: Quest for the Golden Hare, Jonathan Cape ISBN 0-224-02116-8
  • 1986: Cod Streuth, Jonathan Cape ISBN 0-224-02388-8
  • 1986: How to Identify Prints: A Complete Guide to Manual and Mechanical Processes from Woodcut to Inkjet, Thames & Hudson; revised 2nd edition 2004 ISBN 0-500-28480-6
  • 1988: (with J Wright): Bamber Gascoigne's Book of Amazing Facts, London: Walker Books ISBN 0-7445-1082-1; ISBN 978-0-7445-1082-9
  • 1993: Encyclopaedia of Britain: The A-Z of Britain's Past and Present, Macmillan Publishers ISBN 0-333-54764-0
  • 1997: Milestones in Colour Printing 1457–1859: with a bibliography of Nelson Prints (The Sandars Lectures in Bibliography), Cambridge University Press ISBN 978-0-521-55441-1[31]
  • 1998: A Brief History of the Great Moghuls: India's most flamboyant rulers, Running Press ISBN 0-7867-1040-3
  • 2007: Bamber Gascoigne's Challenging Quiz Book, London: Penguin Books ISBN 978-0-14-103470-6
  • 2010: A Brief History of the Second World War, HistoryWorld ISBN 1-908143-00-2
  • 2011: A Brief History of the First World War, HistoryWorld ISBN 1-908143-03-7, ISBN 1-908143-03-7
  • 2011: The Maya, Aztecs, Incas and Conquistadors: a Brief History, HistoryWorld ISBN 978-1-908143-06-8
  • 2014: The Dynasties of China, The Folio Society


  1. ^ a b c d e Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. pp. 3011–3012. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  2. ^ a b c d Alan Freer. "Conqueror 170". Genealogy of William, Duke of Normandy, King of England, and Matilda, daughter of Baldwin, Count of Flanders. Retrieved 27 March 2015.
  3. ^ a b Burke's Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage, 107th edition, Burke's Peerage Ltd, 2003, vol. 1, p. 362, vol. 3, p. 3205
  4. ^ a b James Lees-Milne- The Life, Michael Bloch, Hachette, 2010, pp. 71-72
  5. ^ "Hon. Mary ('Midi') Louisa Hermione Gascoigne (née O'Neill) - National Portrait Gallery". Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  6. ^ "Special Coronation Edition". Television Newsreel. BBC. 2 June 1953. Retrieved 11 September 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Bamber Gascoigne: Profile". Curtis Brown (literary agents). Retrieved 21 September 2013.
  8. ^ a b Christopher Stevens (2010). Born Brilliant: The Life of Kenneth Williams. John Murray. p. 368. ISBN 978-1-84854-195-5.
  9. ^ Gascoigne, Christina (1975). Castles of Britain. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-24098-1. OCLC 2073039.
  10. ^ a b "About us". HistoryWorld. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Bamber Gascoigne". Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  12. ^ "University Challenge". Archived from the original on 5 January 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  13. ^ a b Neil Midgley (8 April 2012). "Bamber Gascoigne's Diamond Jubilee challenge". The Sunday Telegraph. London. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Victorian Values (1987– )". IMDb. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  15. ^ a b c Benedict Brogan (2 February 1990). "Gascoigne rides in hot pursuit of the great Moghuls". The Herald. Glasgow. Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  16. ^ "History and Timelines". HistoryWorld. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  17. ^ "TimeSearch History ::Home - TimeSearch". Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  18. ^ Start the Week, BBC Radio 4, 12 March 2007
  19. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland". The Guardian. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  20. ^ "Roxburghe". Announcements: deaths. The Daily Telegraph. July 2014. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  21. ^ "Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe – obituary". The Daily Telegraph. 9 July 2014. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  22. ^ "Bamber Gascoigne to save 500-year-old manor after accidental inheritance". The Daily Telegraph. 21 March 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  23. ^ "Sotheby's to offer the historic collection of Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe". Art Daily. 12 April 2015. Retrieved 12 April 2015.
  24. ^ "Pre-Raphaelite study behind door in English mansion", The Guardian, 1 May 2015, archived from the original on 18 May 2015, retrieved 3 May 2015
  25. ^ "Page B1 | Supplement 62310, 9 June 2018 | London Gazette". Retrieved 16 July 2020.
  26. ^ "Current RSL Fellows". Royal Society of Literature. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  27. ^ "Living and Dying in 19th Century Richmond". The Richmond Magazine. London. 22 February 2013. Archived from the original on 15 November 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2013.
  28. ^ "Twentieth-century drama / Bamber Gascoigne". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  29. ^ "A brief history of Christianity / Bamber Gascoigne". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 10 September 2013.
  30. ^ "Fearless Freddy's sunken treasure / words by Bamber Gascoigne ; pictures by Christina Gascoigne". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 12 September 2013.
  31. ^ "Milestones in Colour Printing 1457–1859". Cambridge University Press. Retrieved 12 September 2013.

External links[edit]

Media offices
New creation University Challenge host
1962 – 1987
Succeeded by