Eric Whitacre on why British choirs are best

Fri 10th December 2010
Tuning, sight-reading, tone and knowledge – the secrets of a glorious tradition
Eric Whitacre recording his recent Decca disc in London (photo: Alex MacNaughton)
Gramophone’s January issue asked an international jury to name the world’s leading choirs, and then invited American composer Eric Whitacre to reflect on why the list is dominated by British ensembles.
At the age of 18, when I first began singing in choirs, I devoured every choral recording I could find. I collected a huge and varied number of choral discs but over time realised that I was partial to those albums performed by British choirs. Three recordings stand out in my memory: Vaughan Williams’s An Oxford Elegy, Stephen Darlington conducting Christ Church Cathedral Choir; Arvo Pärt’s Passio from the Hilliard Ensemble; and “The Treasures of English Church Music”, John Rutter conducting the Cambridge Singers. I loved these recordings and marvelled at such perfect singing.
Then suddenly, five years ago, I received an e‑mail from Stephen Layton, letting me know that he had discovered a few pieces of mine in a music store in Amsterdam and would I be kind enough to send him everything I’d ever written. I did – and one year later he sent me the finished disc “Cloudburst”, performed by his incredible choir Polyphony. Never had I dreamt that my music would one day be so beautifully and masterfully recorded by such a quintessentially British choir.
Since that time I have had the great privilege to work with a number of choirs in the UK, with each experience being a thrill: writing a piece for the The King’s Singers and the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain; recording my album “Light & Gold” with the Eric Whitacre Singers (all Brits) and Laudibus; and, most recently, concerts with the London Symphony Chorus and the Welsh choir Cordydd. After much thought I’m finally beginning to understand what makes these British choirs so incredible.
Tuning: perhaps the most powerful weapon in the technical arsenal of a choir, choristers in the UK are taught from a very early age not only to sing in tune but to listen to those around them. A perfect example is Alamire, David Skinner’s phenomenal early music group to which I have recently been introduced, a choir that sings so in tune that the music seems to shimmer and float in front of the speakers.
Sight-reading: the Brits are possibly the world’s greatest sight-readers. In my travels I’ve certainly never seen anything like it. Every time I rehearse a choir here I am astonished at how quickly they parse the music and absorb it. When we recorded “Light & Gold”, the Eric Whitacre Singers and Laudibus had just six hours to read through and rehearse 80 minutes of my music. Good singers here are simply expected to read.
Tone: bright and clear, with a healthy spin and not too much vibrato. I love the warm, long, open vowels, the purity of the vowel colour being perfect for the close harmonies in my music. I love the way the women can sing in their upper registers, rich and crystalline. And when a British choir truly dedicate themselves to the consonants – like in the line “giving their kisses like clouds exchanging foam”, a line from my a cappella work A Boy and a Girl – there is little that’s more sweet or more affecting.
Knowledge: British choirs simply get it. I’m sure it comes from the centuries-old tradition of singing but there is a seasoned polish and an attitude about the music-making that is at once soulful and unsentimental, expressive without being maudlin. They have the beating hearts of singers and the brains of trained musicians and this places them among the most potent and versatile artists on the planet.
I certainly do not underestimate the influence of such extraordinary choral conductors as John Eliot Gardiner, Stephen Layton and Harry Christophers. What can I say? I am genuinely in awe of the British choral tradition and look forward to each opportunity that I have to listen to and work with the many and varied exceptional choirs.
And the the choirs in ascending order of votes  (20-1) are:
20 I Fagiolini
19 Arnold Schoenberg Choir
18 Stile Antico
17 The Balthazar-Neumann Choir
16 Westminster Abbey Choir
15 Les Arts Florissants
14 Choir of New College, Oxford
13 The Tallis Scholars
12 Choir of King’s College, Cambridge
11 The Dunedin Consort
10 Swedish Radio Choir
9 RIAS Kammerchor
8 Accentus
7 Collegium Vocale Ghent
6 Wells Cathedral Choir
5 The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge
4 The Sixteen
3 The Cardinall’s Musick
2 Polyphony
1 The Monteverdi Choir

Pre-Victorian English Christmas food

This is something I found lying on the web.
ON CHRISTMAS DAY BRITAIN crackles to the sound of 14,000,000 roasting turkeys. Henry VIII takes the credit for being the first to tuck into a turkey for Christmas dinner – but Henry made a meal out of most things anyway. For more than 300 years goose knocked the stuffing out of all competitors for the nation’s favourite Christmas meal. Its popularity was boosted further when Queen Elizabeth happened to be eating it on Christmas Eve, when she was given news of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. George the First’s favourite Yuletide treat was lashings of Christmas pud. Those old fashioned rich, spicy suet puddings were traditionally made on the last Sunday in Advent and stirred by each member of the family who made a wish. Dinner at Windsor castle in the days of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert was an elaborate ritual. Each Christmas they began with turtle soup, followed by a choice of haddock or sole, and beef or roast swan. Guests then ploughed through a selection of veal, chicken, turbot, curried rabbit, pheasant and capon. Then if there was room left, and there usually was, they stuffed themselves with mince pies and pudding. Nowadays it is a modest affair of turtle soup, roast turkey and Christmas pud washed down with Champagne and claret from the Royal cellars. At the other end of the scale there were a few official cookery hints for Christmas dinner in the lean years following World War Two. The Food Ministry’s suggestions for an ‘austerity Christmas’ included “Make a nice sweet beetroot pudding with very little sugar”. Or you could try “Delicious dishes from left-over bread”. To round it all off there was Christmas pudding made from grated raw potato, carrot and melted dripping – with a warning that it would not last more than two or three days. It would have taken longer than that to tempt someone today to try a spoonful. In those Christmases of long ago, before jogging was invented, tables groaned under a monster concoction called ‘Great Pye’. In Medieval days it was always the centrepiece at the Royal Christmas table, assuming the table was strong enough. Contained beneath inch-thick, armour-plated pastry was a whole turkey stuffed with a whole goose, stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a partridge, stuffed with a pigeon. Thrown in for good measure, in case anyone complained they weren’t getting enough, was a hare, a few wild duck and a couple of woodcock. Gulp. Our ancestors certainly knew how to prepare a Christmas dinner. Kings especially believed in doing themselves proud, and sat down to some gargantuan meals. At one Christmas dinner arranged by Edward III, the first English king to employ a French chef, 2,000 oxen were roasted. In 1399 Richard II did even better. He entertained 10,000 people and hired more than 1,000 cooks, each a specialist in a different dish. But the biggest Christmas dinner ever provided in Britain was not given in a royal palace, but in Cawood Castle, Yorkshire, in 1566, to celebrate the installation of a member of the family as Archbishop of York. One hundred and four oxen, 1,000 sheep, 6 wild boars and 304 calves were served up, together with thousands of geese, rabbits and game blrds. One of the biggest pies ever served was for Sir Henry Grey in 1770. Weighing more than one and a half hundredweight, it contained four geese, four turkeys, six snipe, six pigeons, two rabbits, two ox-tongues and numerous other items. When it was ready he fitted it with wheels and had it driven by road from Berwick to London for Christmas. Under an ancient charter, Paignton, South Devon, must provide a Christmas pudding large enough to feed all its poor people every 50 years. In 1800, the pudding weighed 900lb and contained 120lb of suet, over a bushel of eggs, 500lb of flour and 100lb of raisins. At least there was no chance of anyone coming back for seconds. In contrast, if you spent Christmas Eve in Poland you could find yourself starving. They call it the Festival of the Star.

The Romanesque symbolism of permanence

A poem of living stones. In their form, the Romanesque symbols are akin to clay pots. They contain, however, living water, the mystery of the Holy Grail. Carriers of ancient wisdom, they reveal the true Knowledge that prevents human death and radiate everlasting youth.

In the 12th century, raw, virgin stone is deemed androgynous, which refers to the perfection of the original state. Cut and carved, it marks the separation of the principles. The stone may be conical or cubical. The conical symbolizes the male element and the cubical the female, respectively.

The stones are not however inert masses: like the betyls, they are living bodies fallen down from heaven. They stay animate after the Fall. By virtue of its immobility, the stone is the epitome of wisdom. Often associated with water, the stone is central to the Old Testament episode where Moses strikes a stone and water streams down. (Exodus, XVII, 6).

Another biblical symbolism draws attention to the stone’s nutritious character: the Devil challenges Christ to turn the stones into loaves of bread (Matthew, 4, 3). For the 12th century man, the stone gives life but also sustains it.

The famous female mystic Hildegard of Bingen described the three virtues of the stone: humidity, palpability and the igneous solidity. Humidity arrests dissolution; owing to its palpable nature, man can tackle and subject it to his will; the fire that lies within its core makes it ever more adamant.

A stone builder is an alchemist. He explores the hidden passages of turning nothing into something. He examines all the possible crossings from virtuality to actualization. The builder, the artist, the architect, they all bear the same name and gather all artistic and professional functions. Multiplicity is imperfection, therefore one man presides over the edification of a sanctuary. Once completed, the stones can relay the effort and hold arches, keep walls upright and, as at the abbey of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy (below), thwart the unremitting oppression of the sea, in periculo maris.


The apse of Fontevraud Abbey. According to 12th century thought, the microcosm and the macrocosm forms the being, that is everything that can have an existence. The church is a microcosm built to resemble a macrocosm whose attributes it takes upon consecration. The chancel is the upper part of a church and thus the head of the microcosm, where the plenary power resides and where the connection with the macrocosm becomes achievable. The half circular shape of the apse points to the East where the Sun (sol invictus) rises and where grace abounds. From this perspective, the configuration of the church follows the mystical plan of Hildegard of Bingen, mentioned above: an ascensional staircase releasing its lower energy under the portal (see photo below) then running through the nave, step after step, past the crossing of the transept, into the choir where the blazing vitality reaches the apex. Under the stone arches that soon made way for an ambulatory, the mystery of all mysteries is revealed to the pious eyewitness. Here, the mysticism of light and stone, verticality and potency, permanence and singularity in manifested in its entirety.


The abbey church of Paray-le-Monial in Burgundy


The church of Saint George of Boscherville in Normandy



In his essay “L’art religieux du XIIe siècle”, the French art historian Emile Mâle drew attention to the relationship between the 12th century scholars and the artists: “When iconography changes, when art espouses new themes, it means that a scholar has collaborated with an artist”. Here, this capital from the abbey of Saint George of Boscherville in Normandy (Seine-Maritime) shows how figurative sculptural art draws its vigour from 12th c. scholasticism. An artist is therefore never alone in his artistic endeavors, no matter how creative and original his work is. Philosophical and theological thought, illuminated illustrations, all form the ancestry of an original artistic mind in the Romanesque 12th century.







The church St Pierre at Lion sur Mer in Normandy



Decorated capital at Fontevraud Abbey



Castle Acre priory church in Norfolk, England


Mythical creature swallowing a column at Lincoln Cathedral


The nave of Fontevraud Abbey


It is therefore not surprising that the city of Minas Tirith from the film The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was conceived in a mimicking Romanesque style. The city had been there for thousands of years and the way of conveying the idea of permanence is to relate its buildings, fortifications and the top-level palace architecture (more of a basilica, actually) to the 12th century churches and castles.

For more photos click here and you’ll be taken to my Flickr photostream. To find out where the photo was taken (before I rename and add caption to all photos), please refer to the photo tags inside Flickr

Between mysticism and splendour

The Mont Saint Michel has almost become a commonplace landmark in France. However, just as Marie-Madeleine Davy was writing in her book “Initiation to the Romanesque symbolism”, the spiritual man approaches (medieval) art in a soaring campaign that conquers symbols and allegories. The Mount reveals its numinous edge and once it has been seen, it doesn’t wash away.

In the three hours that I spent inside the Mount, I caught glimpses of these fleeting displays of sacred presence. The monastic solitude, bereft of apparent tranquility, keeps tireless tourists and their camera flashes at bay. Despite the bustling and hustling, I could still hear the millennium-old chant that still echos in the granite walls.


Monastic rapture


Early 12th c. Madonna with child


Darkness transfigured


Ex monasterio Sancti Michaelis in periculo maris

IMG_0046The pillar of the earth

To the heart of France: part two



Do the French speak English? I was talking Romanian with my family at this restaurant in Amboise when the waiter comes and proposes us a menu for Anglo-Saxons. “We are not English”, I answer. “Oh, I thought you spoke English there”, he retorted. Good evidence of how well the French are acquainted with English.



Chinon, 1181, King Henry II holds the Christmas court here at Chinon. The castle had been one of his favourite residences when he was in Anjou taking care (=extending and conquering) of his continental estates. It his also at the castle of Chinon that dear old Henry II died in 1189.





In 1152, Henry, duke of Anjou, Maine, etc, future king of England, married out of love, a woman out of legend. Not in Alexandria, or Rome, or Camelot has there been such a queen. Only one of her sons, John, outlived her.

In the abbey of Fontevraud she is setting the trend for “the reader” effigy, one of the many artistic transformations of the 12th century Renaissance. May she rest in peace for she hardly had any in her lifetime. Except perhaps those fifteen years when her beloved husband kept her locked up in Salisbury tower. Résidence surveillée, actually.




The arrogant castle of Saumur


The river Loire at Amboise heedlessly rushing past the stone bridge



The Romanesque church of Saint-Martin in Amboise, deformed by the late-Gothic portal.

To the heart of France, still looking for the lost history: part one

Timber-frame street

The wealth of the city of Troyes. These might have belonged to the local Jews

The Château of Chambord as King Francis I must have seen it when coming on a royal tour (with no tourists)

Château de Chambord, soaring tower

Organic vision

Equestrian display at Château de Chambord

Château de Chaumont on the Loire at sunset

In search of history: sniffing England’s heritage

Some thoughts and things I jotted down while driving from Boston (the one in England) to Bury St. Edmunds last week, where the famous priory lay centuries ago. 

Early in the morning I drove to Peterborough cathedral and attended Holy Communion there. There were so many people there, I felt uplifted. The Norman interior of the church was conveying this sense of security, with the thick pillars, small window openings and scarce decoration. I wasn't expecting the West front to be so different from all the churches I had seen elsewhere. 

Next, to Castle Acre where I saw the priory ruins and the motte-and-bailey castle. It's impressive how most of the priory church fell down but the West front is still in almost one piece and most of the decorations, including the blind arcading is still visible in the middle of a seemingly pasture field.

Hedgerows in Suffolk

Since the place is run by the English Heritage trust, I had to pay an entrance fee to see the priory site. What I found particularly interesting was the latrine house which had been built over a small river so that the waste would wash away (towards the nearest village downriver). I thought how much Henry VIII lacked in economic foresight: A lot of money would have been made out of entrance fee to all the abbeys that were dissolved in the late 1530s. 4 pounds 50p to see some ruins, maybe double to see the actual place. 

After leaving the place, I tried to reach Thetford Priory but all that I managed to do was circle the priory close and get back to the car empty-handed. However, I did get to see a nice residential neighbourhood with some stunning front gardens.

Originally, I wanted to drive directly to Bury St. Edmunds from Thetford but I had a sudden urge to see the sea in Norfolk. Therefore, I turned left on the motorway (I'm still in the UK) and drove through some beautiful woodland (might have been Thetford Forest Park, but it needs checking); I even saw thatched houses. 

There are indeed magnificent houses everywhere and similar stone tower churches in every village. One trademark is the cornerstones that give a nice impression overall. There's also great traffic management with lots of smart markings and good road conditions.

On the other hand, there are not as many sheeps here in the East as in the Midlands or the South.

I learned about the Fens but scarcely saw any marshes on the way to the sea. I crossed a major river but forgot to write down its name or to look it up thereafter, so now it's lost unless I rewind my route and check for major river crossings which I don't actually have time for.

I listened to good radio and liked one song more than the others: Brad Paisley's "Catch all the fish"

One intriguing thing: there were many references to Poland in one day: Polish shop in Peterborough "Polski Sklep", Polish-speaking chaps drinking Wiwieck beer on the green in Thetford; fellow saying something about Krakow on the radio.

Otherwise, good weather with sporadic showers and overcast clouds.

Orford Castle, a strangely unfamiliar addition to the 12th c. collection of Norman keeps

Before it started to get dark I arrived in Orford and parked the car near the Norman keep. After spending half an hour there writing all this down on a picnic bench I went to see the sea in Felixstowe. I had hardly got the coast when I felt hungry. I turned right near Melton in Suffolk and had dinner at Willford Bridge inn: fish pie, cherry tart and a pint of Regata ale to wash it all with. 

One last thing I wrote before the end of the day"

People are so nice everywhere. England is such a natural country for such unnatural eating habits people here have. Am desperately looking for non-fried, non-battered, fresh fish. The closest I've got so far is roasted salmon. That's a start, I hope it gets better.

It all gets down to food, one way or another, I guess.

Below there are some photos from the day before, from York to Boston, marking off parts of Yorkshire, Scarborough, Lincoln.. 

The flying buttresses of York Minster, while I was catching my breath from climbing the billion stairs to the tower. 

The waterfront in Scarborough, an originally small fishermen village, now a bustling town with 10 fish&chips venues on a square meter. 

The ferris wheel in Scarborough right in the surf splash.

The Humber bridge in all its glory. You have to be there to appreciate all its majesty. 

Lincoln, very close to what it must have looked like in the good old days. Behind me, Lincoln Castle. 

All photos featuring on this blog can be found on my Flickr page

The Normans conquer the BBC, late AD 2010

Now this is fantastic news for me and everyone else with an interest (or more) in Norman history. BBC has announced that it is going to broadcast a TV series documentary focusing on the Normans under the guidance of Professor Robert Bartlett, one of the most eminent scholars specialising in the Norman and Angevin period, whose most recent book "England under the Norman and Angevin kings" sheds light on the latest research in late 11th to early 13th century England. This season, we are told, will not be concerned with the Anglo-Norman exploits only but will look everywhere where the Normans left their mark, in Normandy, Italy and the Holy Land. As with all BBC programmes, I am sure this one will be a hit and I'm dying to watch it. "Later this year" could mean, however, anything from September to December so this piece of information will add to my impatience.

[update] Now there are reports the series will be aired later this month. I don't know what to believe, really. 

Website now available here

Below is BBC's official announcement:

The BBC is to provide viewers with a definitive look at a seminal period of history, the resonances of which can still be felt today, in a season focusing on the Normans across BBC Two, BBC Four and BBC Learning.

Leading the season will be The Normans, a three-part series on BBC Two that will examine the extraordinary expansion and unchecked ambition of this warrior race between the 10th and 13th centuries.

Presented by Professor Robert Bartlett, the series will bring the history of the Normans to life by uncovering the personal stories of shadowy figures like Tancred of Hauteville, best remembered as a poor 11th-century Norman lord who fathered no less than 12 sons, two of whom left their homeland and risked their lives to become great rulers in the Mediterranean and Middle East.

Sweeping across borders and centuries, Bartlett will journey from the st ormy shores of Great Britain via Jerusalem to the Kingdom of Sicily, explaining how and why a dynasty of dukes and warriors became conquerors and kings. Bursting with colourful manuscripts, documents and artefacts, this series will give voice to an unfamiliar world of princess historians and mixed-race monks.

Martin Davidson, Commissioning Editor, History and Business, says: "The Battle of Hastings in 1066 is such an iconic landmark in our history, but what do we really know of the dynasty of dukes and warriors that staged this Norman invasion? And what do we know of the frenetic energy of the centuries that followed? I'm extremely pleased that a world authority like Robert Bartlett will be at the helm of our Norman season, providing BBC Two viewers with a definitive look at the warrior-race whose ambition and power transformed Europe and irrevocably changed the course of British history."

Alongside The Normans, Dr Stephen Baxter will present a one-off BBC Two documentary on The Domesday Book. Locked in a special case deep within the British National Archives, this Norman treasure holds many secrets of the past. This special programme will shake the dust off Domesday and reveal that this ancient public record unleashed enough red tape to help create the modern nation state.

BBC Four will be turning the spotlight on the art and culture of the Normans. In The Stones Of Rosslyn, art historian Lady Helen Rosslyn will delve into the art and architecture of one of the most famous medieval chapels in the world, exploring what it is about Rosslyn Chapel that has enchanted visitors as diverse as JMW Turner, Robert Burns and Tom Hanks.

In Norman Walks, Dan Snow will uncover the forgotten Norman Empire – one that has been largely overlooked but which laid the foundation for modern Britain. Each episode will take in prominent Norman landmarks and feature a mixture of aerial archive and bespoke filming via helicopter.

In The Art Of The Anglo-Saxons, Dr Janina Ramirez will tell the story of how England in the Dark Ages became one of the art capitals of Christendom. She will examine highlights of Anglo-Saxon art, such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, decoding the imagery within them and examining the sophisticated techniques required to create them.

Poet Simon Armitage will show how the legend of King Arthur matured in the years after the Norman invasion in Armitage On Arthur. Revealing the greatest masterworks of Arthurian literature, Simon will tell Arthur's tragic story and ask what role the mythical king still serves in our national consciousness.

The Norman Season will also launch Hands On History, a two-year BBC Learning campaign offering audiences inspiring opportunities to take the next step from watching programmes to discovering history around them. Working in partnership with more than 20 heritage and history organisations, Hands On History will offer a range of events and activities as part of the Norman Season, including Norman walks.

The Norman Season will take place on the BBC later this year.

What in nomine regis is going on with this palaeography business?

Late last week I enrolled in this palaeography and medieval latin programme with Keele University and for the last four days I've been sweating like a scrivener in his dusty scriptorium. Only the classroom at Keele is not at all dusty and with all the rain pouring down every day, sweating only comes from working hours on end trying to figure out what some 700 year-old clerk wanted to express using words and scripts long fallen into disuse. What's even more puzzling, it's that ten people are sitting at a table doing script lines in turns when nobody really cares what the text says. I am one of them and I love doing it. Why? Don't ask me. It's a daunting undertaking: unless you make progress right from the first words on the first line of the text, you are doomed to stagnation. It's reassuring that Professor Jim Sutton is there to guide us through a whole world of question marks.

Every morning at 9:30 we sit around the L-shaped table jubilating about our fresh findings, either an "eidem" or a "sciant presentes". And when the whole sentence makes sense, either by having understood that this adjective goes dative and that noun ballistically ablative, we feel like in a septimus heaven, in the reign of King Edward, son of King Edward, in die Dominica. But most of the time it's freakishly difficult and the only way to make progress is to gape at the document fanatically without blinking. Eventually, either by imagination or sound reasoning (and I know whom I'm talking about when I say that), we get there, when Professor Sutton says, Game over, here's the transcription! We cling to that handout as though it were a trophy, which in many ways it is.

With all the coffee breaks at 10:45 and lunch breaks at 12:45, the text never breaks away from us. At the restaurant, which resembles a monastic refectory, the chat around the tables reverts to charters, deeds, wills, conjugations and the ablative unless Nigel, our prior, has some announcement to make.

I have translated below (and I mean  translation in the latin sense of the word , which means "moved from one place to another", namely from my notebook to this post) a deed that we worked on earlier today in the "predicto modo".

You'll get a sense, whoever you are and whatever your interests, of what I'm forced to do from dawn to dusk. I'm joking. I've placed myself willfully under this yoke and I simply can't wait to do it tomorrow and the day after that.

Omnibus Christi fidelibus hoc presens scriptum visuris vel audituris Johannes Bagot dominus de Bromleye salutem in domino. Noveritis me dedisse et concessisse Willelmo filio Ade de Chapmon de Bromley totum boscum existentem in decem acris terre de bosco meo de Fenneshay videlicet stantem et Jacentem sicut mensuratis sunt et divise exceptis liberis arboribus ibidem cressentibus videlicet quercis frenis pomeriis mapeles cum liberis introitu et exitu et una porta versus Alberleye. Et etiam concessi eidem Willelmo quod possit capere turbas pro domo sua cooperiendo et terram pro furno suo faciendo in venella de Alberleye. Et etiam concessi eidem Willelmo spacium trium annorum ad predictam terram de predicto bosco de liberandam a die festi annunciationis beate Marie Anno Regni Regis Edwardi filii regis Edwardi nono. Et etiam concessi eidem Willelmo per tres annos predictos herbagium pro duobus equis in toto bosco meo de Fenneshay. Et etiam concessi eidem Willelmo quod in fine dicti termini possit capere domum quam ibidem fecerit et a dicto bosco cariare pro voluntate sua sine contradictione alicuius. In cuius rei testimonium huic scripto indentate sigillum meum apposuit. Datum die et anno supradicto.

Now here's the English translation:

To all faithful in Christ who shall see or hear this present writing John Bagot, lord of Bromley Bagotes, sends greeting in God. You will have known me to have given and to have granted to William, the son of Adam le Chapmon of Bromley all the wood (firewood) existing within ten acres of land of my wood of Fenneshay, namely standing and lying just as they are measured and defined, excepting free growing trees in the same place, namely of oak, ash, apple and maple, with free right of entry and exit and one gateway towards Alberleye, And also I have granted to the same William that he is able to take turves for thatching his house and earth for making his hearth in the lane of Alberleye, And also I have granted to the said William a span of three years to the aforesaid land with the freedom of the aforesaid wood from the feast-day of the annunciation of the blessed Mary in the ninth year of the Reign of King Edwardm son of King Edward. And also I have granted to the same William for the aforesaid three years grazing for two horses in the whole of my wood of Fenneshay, And also I have granted to the said William that at the end of the term he is able to take the house which he has built in the same place and to carry if from the said wood at his will without the objection of anyone. In witness of which thing I have placed my seal on this indented writing. Given the day and year above stated (Thursday, the 25th of March 1316)