The sitting-room of our client opened by a long, low, latticed window on to the ancient lichen-tinted court of the old college. A Gothic arched door led to a worn stone staircase

This is the description of the scene as Sherlock’s team enters St. Luke’s.

How do you visualise this? I can’t seem to imagine, get an understanding of the image/scene described in this. How would it look like? Can someone simplify this?

Are there visual representations of this book?

  • 1
    Hi and welcome to Literature Se. CAn you clarify what the problem is? If you know or have looked up the meanings of all the words, what is the obstacle to understanding the scene?
    – Spagirl
    Oct 27, 2021 at 11:35

1 Answer 1


This sounds like a typical description of what one might expect to see in an Oxbridge college, either in Conan Doyle's time or today (they haven't changed much). Note that "one of our great university towns" in the story must mean Oxford or Cambridge.

The "long, low, latticed window" would be something like this (latticed), only a different shape (long and low meaning small in height and large in width).

The "ancient, lichen-tinted court" would be something like this (Oxford) or this (Cambridge): a courtyard, or quadrangle (Oxbridge people call them "quads" or "courts"), basically a square of grass surrounded by paths and ancient buildings, which one might well expect to be covered in lichen. Many Oxbridge colleges have them, and rooms overlooking them in the college, as you can see in the pictures.

The "Gothic arched door" would be something like this, leading out of the professor's college room onto a worn stone staircase. Again, this is typical Oxbridge fare even today. As a college tutor and lecturer, Hilton Soames would have a set of rooms in the college, probably in an old stone building some centuries old. He has a view from his window onto the ancient quadrangle, and even the door out of his rooms onto the staircase is something old and grand, set in a Gothic arch.

See this, another typical picture from an Oxbridge college, for the kind of door and staircase we might be looking at. Note that the organisation of rooms in these colleges is generally based around staircases, which usually have only one or two doors on each storey: a typical college "address" might be Room 3 on Staircase F, or F3 for short, and that might be already on the second floor. So it also makes sense that Hilton Soames's students might have individual rooms above him on the same staircase.

  • 3
    This answer is spot-on. The detail I would add for interest is that the typical configuration of a quad/court has multiple staircases (accessed through an open gateway), each of which leads to usually two rooms on each level. Unlike modern buildings there are often no internal corridors, so to reach a room you go to the correct staircase and then the correct door from that staircase. (Where students in modern halls of residence often form social groups based around corridors, Oxbridge students are likely to associate with those on their staircase.)
    – dbmag9
    Oct 27, 2021 at 18:41
  • 1
    @dbmag9 Right, I added some sentences about that. Some people in chat were confused by why Soames's students would be on three different floors above him, and this helps to explain it.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Oct 28, 2021 at 7:31

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