Mastermind: Peterborough quiz star reveals what it is like to sit in the famous black chair - and why he would have preferred not to face Peterborough Cathedral questions

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Stephen Dodding missed only two questions during his first round performance – and has moved into the semi final of the iconic quiz

Peterborough’s Mastermind star has spoken of his nerves approaching the famous black chair – and given top tips to other would-be-quiz champions.

Peterborough Cathedral guide Stephen Dodding proved to be a quiz sensation on the famous contest last week, scoring 29 points, winning his first round in style and advancing to the semi final.

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“I found it a struggle to actually walk to the chair’

Mastermind first round winner Stephen Dodding at Peterborough CathedralMastermind first round winner Stephen Dodding at Peterborough Cathedral
Mastermind first round winner Stephen Dodding at Peterborough Cathedral

Stephen is used to the lights of TV quiz shows, having appeared on – and had success – on shows including Only Connect, 15-1, Pointless and Bullseye in the past – but the famous music, spotlights, and intimidating black chair, still had a huge impact on him as he stepped up to answer questions on his specialist subject, mediaeval cathedrals of England.

He was the first to take to the black chair in his episode – but got all 12 of his questions correct.

He said: “I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was very nerve wracking. I was sitting there beforehand extremely nervous, and I found it a struggle to actually walk to the chair itself because everyone is looking at you. It was quite a relief when you sat down and got into a zone and get on with it.”

‘It is nice that Peterborough got a mention’

Stephen Dodding (left) and the other contestants on Monday's showStephen Dodding (left) and the other contestants on Monday's show
Stephen Dodding (left) and the other contestants on Monday's show

As he settled down to answer his specialist subject questions, there was a smile on his face when one of the questions related to Peterborough Cathedral – and then a second connecting to his home cathedral followed shortly afterwards.

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But after spending time travelling the country researching the topic, Stephen said he would have preferred other questions to turn up.

He said: “It is nice that Peterborough got a mention, but if I am perfectly honest, given the amount of work I’d put in researching the other cathedrals, I would have been quite happy to get another couple of questions on them actually , but it was nice that they got mentioned.

“The people who set these questions have no idea who they are setting the questions for, they just get told someone is doing mediaeval cathedrals of England and they set off and do 12 question, so it is quite a coincidence that Peterborough got the mentions that it did.”

“I’ve always liked cathedrals, and I am a guide here at Peterborough Cathedral, so that is a head start, but I decided I would go around the whole country, and see all the cathedrals that I would be asked questions on.

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"It happened in April to June last year, the weather was nice, I got my senior rail card out and I went round 19 of the 22. I had an absolutely fantastic time researching it – it was an absolute joy.”

Stephen has not revealed what his specialist subject for his semi final round will be – or how he has done – despite the show, which is currently presented by newsreader Clive Myrie, having already been filmed to it’s conclusion in Belfast.

Quiz team ‘couldn’t care less’ about his incredible performance

Stephen is a member of a team – called Jacob’s Crackers – in the Quiz League of London, which he participates in every week – but while friends and family have been impressed with his performance, he said his fellow quizzers had not been as impressed.

He said: “They couldn’t care less – one of our team was on it last year. It is not particularly outrageously special amongst them.

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"But overall it has been really very positive, with people coming out of the woodwork that you have forgotten about to say well done.”

Top tips for fellow budding quizzers

Stephen has now given his top tips for other budding quizzers looking to take on the famous black chair. Along with his 12 points on his specialist subject, he scored an equally impressive 17 points in the general knowledge round, missing out on only two questions.

He said: “It is impossible to practice for the general knowledge round – it is a good idea to look at recent series and look at what is popular with the general knowledge setters.

"You have to have a reasonable up to date pop knowledge for example – you have to know who Lizzo is, Dua Lipa and all these sort of people.

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"You just have to take your chances – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Stephen is due to appear in the semi final of the competition later this month, believed to be on Monday, February 26 on BBC 2 at 7.30pm.

Stephen’s first round appearance is available on the iPlayer.


These are the Peterborough related questions Stephen faced on Mastermind – and the two general knowledge questions he got wrong. How would you have done if you had faced these?

  1. Which queen was buried in Peterborough Cathedral in 1587 and remained there until her body was moved to Westminster Abbey 25 years later?
  1. Which Tudor gothic architect designed Canterbury Cathedral’s Bell Harry Tower, and is also believed to have been responsible for Peterborough Cathedral’s magnificent fan vaulted retrochoir?

General Knowledge questions:

  1. What item of sporting equipment used in Olympic throwing events weighs 2kg when used by men and 1kg in the women’s competition?
  1. The 2022 crime novel Meantime was written by which Scottish Comedian?


  1. Mary Queen of Scots
  2. John Wastell
  3. Discus
  4. Frankie Boyle