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Old Operating Theatre, Museum & Herb Garret

9a St Thomas Street, Southwark, London, SE1 9RY

Old Operating Theatre, Museum & Herb Garret

9a St Thomas Street, Southwark, London, SE1 9RY

The very antithesis of your big expensive London attraction, the Old Operating Theatre in the roof space of baroque St Thomas’ Church near London Bridge station is a fascinating place to stop in and explore. The 1815 Apothecary’s Act required trainee apothecaries to attend hospital operations and a need arose for somewhere where surgeons could operate without students crowding around the poor patient and getting in the way. The wards of the south wing of St Thomas’ Hospital were near the church and so the church’s roof area, with its space for a gallery, separate entrance for students and light, became a perfect venue. Wind your way up the belltower stairs to learn what happened in the theatre before the invention of anaesthetic, inspect the dusty medical instruments and herbal remedies and thank your lucky stars for the NHS.

Old Operating Theatre, Museum & Herb Garret is part of the following Travel Ideas:

Ten of Britain’s Scariest Attractions by Natalie French

"As you clamber up the creaky spiral staircase, you can almost feel the horror of the gruesome goings-on that took place within this Baroque church attic. The operating theatre wasn’t just home to skilled surgeons who could lop off limbs in less than a minute, but trainees – who came to learn the art on the desperately ill and unfortunate. The lack of anaesthetic meant that alcohol or opiates were the painkiller of choice and many patients perished under the eager eye of hordes of apprentice apothecaries."

The Ten Best Smaller Museums and Galleries by Olivia Greenway

"Situated up some stairs in the herb garret of a former church, opposite Guy’s Hospital, the museum is a short walk from London Bridge tube station. It’s the oldest theatre in the United Kingdom. St Thomas’s Hospital had been on the site since before the 13th century. Herbs were used to make medicines here before it was used as a theatre. Not for the squeamish, until 1847, operations here were performed without anaesthetic. Surgeons were known for their speed; an amputation needed to be quick. There is a large fanlight but no heating or ventilation. Limited disabled access. Open every day, modest admission charge."

Information on Old Operating Theatre, Museum & Herb Garret , 9a St Thomas Street , Southwark , London

Opening Times: Daily 10:30-17:00. Closed 15 Dec to 5 Jan.
Admission: Adult £6.00, Child (Under 16) £3.50, Concession £5.00, Family £13.95. Group Visit Service (pre-booked) also available.
Child Friendly:  Children of all ages welcome (Age over 5)
Dog Friendly: No
Location: Five minute walk from London Bridge station.
Facilities: Guided tours, Shop

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