The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret
London Bridge, London
9a St. Thomas Street, Southwark, London SE1 9RY
- London Bridge (0.1 km)
- London Bridge Station (0.2 km)
- London Bridge Railway Station (0.2 km)
- Contact us:
020 7188 2679
- Opening hours:
Closed: Dec 15-Jan 5
4 reviews of The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret in English
Up a narrow, steep and winding staircase made of ageing wood that is just slippery enough to leave you in constant fear you’ll slip and break your legs (even though you won’t in the end) lies a place where time has stood still since the 17th century. Perfectly suited to its antiquated name, the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret is cavernous and modestly sized but decorated in breathtaking detail; where varnished skeletons, brains and internal organs pickled in formaldehyde sit in elevated boxes next to formidable looking syringes and other medical equipment.
This museum hosts a collection of curious things: models of dead animals, bottles of things that look like they could be faintly poisonous vegetables that have gone stale decades ago but have been preserved, the shells of crustaceans and dried greenery weaving along cracked wooden beams. They’ve gone all out on the death theme: skulls litter shaded corners and sit atop tables – there’s even a section of the museum that has two mannequins wearing formal dress in a solemn pose, standing over a bed mourning the death of a child.
The mini amphitheatre upstairs (complete with a battered wooden operating table right in the middle) holds host to some astounding literary events, like BAD IDEA’s Butcher’s Shop, an interactive theatrical and literary event whose praises I have sung in the past for getting the balance just right between being playful and intellectually stimulating. If you go there of an evening, please heed the following warning: do NOT wait until you’re desperate to go to ladies’ or gents’ loos because they have none on the premises. You’ll have to use the one across the road! I never found the herb garret either.
I visited with a friend who was studying medicine, but found it a much more interesting experience than I expected. Seeing the old operating theatre made of wood and the sawdust scattered on the floor for effect was really interesting. It is a little surreal to have a museum of medicine shhowing you all the implements used and talking about the history of operations, and then being able to also see the tranquil herb garden, but overall an interesting experience. It’s probably unintentionally gruesome enough for kids to enjoy too.
A small museum, but really interesting and definitely unique; good if you are interested in learning more about the history of medicine and appreciating developments in science that have happened since!
This is the oldest operating theatre in England. The exhibits will tell the stody of how surgery was like and the use of herbal medicine. There you will get an insight of how operations were performed a long time ago. There was no antiseptic and anaesthetic which made me think of the pain and how much the patient suffered. There is also lots of instruments that were used during surgery back then which looked a bit horrifying. There are tours, talks, lectures about the place and its history. It is definately one place to visit to have a look.
This small but excellent museum houses Britain's oldest surviving operating theatre (from the early 19th century) which was discovered in the 1950s and has since been restored. Talks are given in the theatre with knowledgeable staff demonstrating surgery (pre-anaesthesia!) on victims/volunteers from the audience. No actual blood is spilt but it does give you a better idea of what went on.
The Herb Garret (where the local apothecary stored his herbs) is full of unusual displays including bizarre prescriptions (snail water), dissected organs and brutal-looking medical instruments. It's somehow not as grisly as it sounds, perhaps because of the cosy, timbered setting in a church roof.
There's trails and activities for children and they have a teacher's pack on the website. The only access is up a very steep, narrow spiral staircase. Not recommended for those with mobility problems.
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