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The wooden cowls, which move with the wind, provide ventilation to the oasthouses where hops are dried. These examples could be seen from the nursery window of Fernlea, the house in Cookham where Spencer grew up. For him, Cookham was a sacred place and, in his paintings, was often the setting for the mysteries of the Bible. Of these cowls he wrote: ‘They seemed to be always looking at something and somewhere. When they veered round towards us they seemed to be looking at something above our own nursery window ... With their white wooden heads, they served as reminders of religious presence.’

July 2007