The Old Operating Theatre Museum

The Old Operating Theatre is a unique museum providing a fascinating glimpse into the early days of surgery in the early 1800s

Inside the Old Operating Theatre
Inside the Old Operating Theatre cc licensed photo by Matt From London

This extremely unusual museum is located up a very narrow flight of stairs inside the garret of St. Thomas's Church which was also the original location of St. Thomas's Hospital. Visitors to this lesser known London attraction find it very intriguing and they highly recommend it. The Old Operating Theatre is one of the oldest operating theatres still in existence. Opened in 1822, the patients were women from the adjoining women's hospital.

Procedures were performed without anaesthetics so they were done as rapidly as possible while the patient was subdued by alcohol or opiates. Later they began to use ether or chloroform. Patients put up with students watching the operation in the Theatre, as they were generally poor, and this allowed them to receive surgery from top surgeons that they could in no way afford otherwise.

Cleanliness was 'sacred', however the risk of death was still very high due to the lack of available treatments for infection and the shock of surgery.

The Operating Theatre closed in 1862 when the hospital was moved to a new location and it remained undiscovered for nearly 100 years until 1957. It opened to the public as a museum in 1962.

The Old Operating Theatre is open daily from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm except for December 15th-January 5th. There is a small admission charge, however admission is free with the London Pass.

This attraction is also close to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and Tower Bridge so you may want to visit them while in the area.

For more information about the The Old Operating Theatre including admission charges and hours visit their official website.

Facts For Your Visit

Fee: Yes

Currently Closed

Hours This Week:
  • Monday: 2:00 – 5:00 PM
  • Tuesday: 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Wednesday: 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Thursday: 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Friday: 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Saturday: 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Sunday: 10:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Address: 9a St Thomas St, London SE1 9RY, UK

Phone: 020 7188 2679

Official Website: Old Operating Theatre

Map of nearby accommodations: Booking.com

Directions

Tube Line Nearest Station Walking Time
Jubilee and Northern LinesLondon Bridge Station1 MInute

How to get to Old Operating Theatre by Tube

From London Bridge Station exit onto Borough High Street and walk to your right(north) then immediately right onto St. Thomas Street. The Old Operating Theatre is just ahead to your left on St. Thomas Street.

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Reviews

Rated 4.6 out of 5The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret Star Rating

5 Star Rating Wonderful & unusual niche museum. Pretty much everything about it is unique. Try to get to the hugely engaging weekly lecture on Saturday afternoon if you can

Ed Vine - 12 days ago

5 Star Rating Lovely small museum. Good to visit with kids of all ages. They will find it interesting and you can be done within an hr if you are in a hurry.

Tina Chmurova - 15 days ago

4 Star Rating Pros: There’s so much history held in this historical building. If you’re walking around the London Bridge area and have some time to spare, it’s a fun place to pop into and learn a bit of history. This museum makes you appreciate how far we’ve come in medicine! Cons: You have to walk up a very narrow stairway (so I’m not sure if this is accessible to everyone).

Tatiana Reger - 15 days ago

4 Star Rating Very interesting place and surprisingly cheap to enter Feb 2019 £10 for adult and child under 18. I would not recommend if you cannot walk very well. As you have to walk up a very tight narrow spiral stair case that seems to go around about 5 times to get to it, this is the only way in. Shows all the old herds etc and explanations of how these where used to help patients ailments. Plus old theatre tools very horrific looking, some of them. It also has human specimens of a brain cut in half etc in fluid in see through containers. Has auditorium room like Doctors observation of surgical procedures. Like you see in Victorian films that show you the early treatments of the operations. Like aputations etc so other doctors can see how to do these and try to save lives. It has been totally gutted and restated to look like an original theatre as close as possible. It is about a 7 min walk from London Bridge station. I would recommend this if you are interested in this sort of thing. But it does not take that long to see roughly around a hour would see it all, as not an enormous place. It's built in the roof of the still used hospital underneath.

Stephen Caulfield - 16 days ago

5 Star Rating Very interesting place - great insight into 19th century surgical practices. Only entrance is by a narrow, spiral staircase so just be prepared to climb it! Every Saturday at 2pm there’s a talk (be sure to book in advance though) which I’d highly recommend. Museum is open every day and is great to see but I’d suggest doing the talk alongside. Museum has a little “ghost trail” for younger kids to keep them entertained. They do a lot of other interesting events too (film nights; ghost tours) so be sure to check the website!

Kathleen Greene - 16 days ago

Video


This interesting video about the Old Operating Theatre will give you a renewed appreciation of modern medicine

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