Up a narrow 52-step spiral staircase and in the attic of the early eighteenth-century church of the old St Thomas’ Hospital is the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe. Predating anaesthetics and antiseptics, this atmospheric museum offers a unique insight into the history of medicine and surgery. The original timber framed Herb Garret was once used to dry and store herbs for patients’ medicines and in 1822 an operating theatre was included. The Old Operating Theatre Museum has a special place in my heart. It was here, on the evening of a Valentine’s Day several years ago, that I went on one of my earliest dates with who is now my hubby. It would be fair to say that this wasn’t a conventional date, as this was a date to attend a lecture on The History of Syphilis, romantic eh?
The museum is very different from any other space in London. There are very few glass display cabinets, instead the displays are laid out as if in use in the herb garret. It’s a very creative and atmospheric space. At my last visit just before lockdown I attended a free workshop and made a nosegay. Each time I visit I have a different experience.
Not only does the museum offer talks like I attended they also do film nights, special events, have a great education programme and also a specialty shop dedicated to the history of Georgian and Victorian Medicine and Surgery.
You can hear Monica the museum’s Marketing and Events Manager talk about its history with me in my London History Podcast Episode 12: The Old Operating Theatre Museum.
Lockdown is looking to lift soon, so add The Old Operating Theatre Museum to your list of Things To Do in London and buy your tickets online now.