Bamber Gascoigne, the original host of University Challenge, has died at home after a short illness at the age of 87.

The news of his death was announced by Grange Park Opera on behalf of his family.

In 2014 the TV star inherited 14th century Surrey estate West Horsley Place from his aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe, where Grange Park Opera built an opera house in the woods.

A statement from the opera said: "TV presenter and author Bamber Gascoigne has today (8 February 2022) died at his home in Richmond after a short illness."

Gascoigne took on the role as the first quizmaster of University Challenge in 1962 until the end of its initial run in 1987.

Bamber Gascoigne and his wife Christina pictured in 1965

Lines he often used became classic University Challenge catchphrases such as "Your starter for 10", "fingers on buzzers" and "I'll have to hurry you".

The quiz show was revived in 1994 with Jeremy Paxman as the quizmaster.

Gascoigne also wrote the satirical novel Murgatroyd’s Empire, which was published in 1972, as well as writing and presenting the documentary series The Christians in 1977 which explored the history of Christianity.

Other presenting projects included the documentary series Victorian Values in 1987 and The Great Moghuls in 1992.

In 1984, Gascoigne was famously played by Griff Rhys Jones in a sketch for the comedy series The Young Ones.

Sherlock star Mark Gatiss also portrayed Gascoigne in the 2006 film Starter For Ten which follows a student winning a place on a University Challenge quiz team.

Bamber Gascoigne received a CBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 2018

Gascoigne was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2018 in the Queen’s birthday honours for his services to the arts.

The TV presenter had been married to his wife Christina, a potter, for 55 years.

Stephen Fry, who competed on University Challenge in 1980 on behalf of Queen's College, Cambridge, was among those paying tribute to Gascoigne on Twitter, saying he was "so kind and warm".

Author David Nicholls said he was "starstruck" when he met Gascoigne, who had a cameo role in Starter For 10 – a film adaptation of Nicholls' novel.

Nicholls tweeted: "Very sad to see this. Bamber was a big part of my TV childhood and was very gracious about his fictional cameo in Starter For 10.

"He came to the book launch and left me quite starstruck."

Actor and director Samuel West has recalled how his parents starred in one of Gascoigne's plays.

West shared a black and white photo of a couple on stage and wrote: "RIP Bamber Gascoigne. My parents were in a 1984 play of his at the Old Vic, BIG IN BRAZIL, directed by Mel Smith.

"The critics didn’t care for it, but they had a great time.

"My mother, who was 52, particularly enjoyed playing a 36-year-old in Victorian underwear. As you would."

Broadcaster and gardening writer Monty Don paid tribute the "iconic" and "charming" presenter.

Don tweeted: "Sorry to hear the death of Bamber Gasgoine – for my generation an iconic TV figure.

"I sat next to him at dinner once – we were taught by the same wonderful man, Arthur Sale, at university – and he was charming."

Source: Press Association