Fodor's Expert Review The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

South of the Thames Historical

This rare example of a 19th-century operating theater, the oldest surviving one in Europe, dates back to 1822, when part of the large herb garret in the roof of the 17th-century St. Thomas's Church was converted for surgical use. The English Baroque church was part of St. Thomas's Hospital, which was founded in the 12th century as a monastery that looked after the sick. In 1862, the hospital moved to its present Lambeth location and the operating theater was closed. It remained abandoned until 1956, when it was restored and turned into a medical museum.

Today you can see the artifacts of early-19th-century medical practice: the wooden operating table under a skylight; the box of sawdust underneath used for absorbing blood; and the surrounding banks of seats where students crowded in to observe operations. On Saturday at 10 am, there are demonstrations of pre-anesthetic surgical practices incorporating the knives, pliers, and handsaws that were the surgeons' tools back in the day... READ MORE

This rare example of a 19th-century operating theater, the oldest surviving one in Europe, dates back to 1822, when part of the large herb garret in the roof of the 17th-century St. Thomas's Church was converted for surgical use. The English Baroque church was part of St. Thomas's Hospital, which was founded in the 12th century as a monastery that looked after the sick. In 1862, the hospital moved to its present Lambeth location and the operating theater was closed. It remained abandoned until 1956, when it was restored and turned into a medical museum.

Today you can see the artifacts of early-19th-century medical practice: the wooden operating table under a skylight; the box of sawdust underneath used for absorbing blood; and the surrounding banks of seats where students crowded in to observe operations. On Saturday at 10 am, there are demonstrations of pre-anesthetic surgical practices incorporating the knives, pliers, and handsaws that were the surgeons' tools back in the day (not for the fainthearted or small children). An extra charge (£12) applies and access is by a 52-step spiral staircase, although access by elevator is available by prior arrangement. Next door is a re-creation of the 17th-century Herb Garret, with displays of the medicinal herbs St. Thomas's apothecary would have used. Be sure to book in advance as admission is by timed ticket only.

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Historical Other Museum

Quick Facts

9A St. Thomas St.
London, Greater London  SE1 9RY, England

- 020 - 7188–2679

www.oldoperatingtheatre.com

Sight Details:
Rate Includes: £7.50, Closed Mon.–Wed.

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