Burgh St Peter reaches lofty heights of TV quiz question

Burgh St Peter Church. Photo: Bill Darnell

Burgh St Peter Church. Photo: Bill Darnell - Credit: Archant © 2006

The distinctive shape of its tower would seem more at home on the banks of the river Euphrates than on the Waveney.

University Challenge: Peterhouse College Team

University Challenge: Peterhouse College Team - Credit: Archant

And the church of St Mary the Virgin, in Burgh St Peter, is certainly one of the most striking and beautiful places of worship our region offers.

This week it had the spotlight shone on it in a rather unusual way, as the focus of a series of questions during the grand final of BBC2's University Challenge.

The church tower is said to be based on the ziggurat temples of Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and provided the topic of three bonus questions on the show, posed by host Jeremy Paxman to Peterhouse College, Cambridge. Two were answered correctly, while a wrong answer was given to the third.

The distinctive tower dates from the late 18th century and was built by the rector, Samuel Boycott, to replace the original tower, which had fallen down some time before.


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His son William, who later became rector, had seen the ziggurat temples of Mesopotamia, apparently inspiring the design.

In the churchyard lies the grave of William's son, Charles Boycott, a land agent in Ireland whose ostracism by his local community gave rise to the verb 'to boycott'. He was the subject of the third question, which Peterhouse were unable to answer.

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The team, however, still beat St John's College, Oxford, by 185 points.

Jim Yendley, St Mary The Virgin's churchwarden, said he was pleased with the attention it had received.

'It's the kind of show I don't really understand, but I was watching and was very surprised to suddenly hear our church name. It was a nice surprise and it's very pleasing for it to be mentioned.'

Though far off the beaten path, he said the church has long been popular with visitors, especially from overseas, because of its unique tower.

'It's of course quite an interest with visitors, as is the Boycott family connection which is very well known and continues today as the Boycott family still provide our church's patron,' he added.

'We generally have lots of visitors, but I'm sure the show will encourage more and have a positive impact.'

Do you have a story about an unusual landmark? Email newsdesk@archant.co.uk

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