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.

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

Regular Hours:
May differ on holidays

  • Monday: Closed
  • Tuesday: Closed
  • Wednesday: Closed
  • 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

Reviews

Rated 4.6 out of 5 Star Rating

5 Star Rating What can I say that hasn't already been said. A true hidden gem, the entrance is not very obvious but keep those eyes peeled and you will find it. Be aware that it is a narrow spiral staircase up to the top with nowhere to stop, but take your time and you will be rewarded. Up in the loft of the old apothecary store is a great little museum showing how far medicine has come along. Plenty of interesting items to see and read about, then there is the crown jewel of the museum. The amazingly well preserved operating theatre with it's recently renovated glass ceiling. There is a small shop near the counter with some fun items for kids and big kids. The staff are all welcoming and friendly. Highly recommended that you visit here if you are looking for something different.
Throw glass - 6 months ago

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5 Star Rating Be prepared for the narrow windy staircase! My third visit here and it's an incredibly interesting museum not many know about.
Corinne Dyer - a month ago

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5 Star Rating If you're looking for how Botany has been used in medicine then this museum is a great place to go. If you want to pretend to have your leg cut off by your 7 year old son then this is amazing. Plus it is close to Borough market for food.
D. Jonathan P. Morris - 7 months ago

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5 Star Rating A really fascinating museum, it's fairly small but you can easily spend an hour here. Lot's if interesting and slightly gruesome information on how operations used to be performed! Access is via a very small spiral staircase and is not great for anyone with mobility issues.
Hannah Wild - 4 months ago

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5 Star Rating Perfect place to visit. Just the entrance stairs are a great experience. 😉 A little bit creepy, a little bit scary, but a beautiful space where the atmosphere of old times breathes on you.
Kateřina Jandová - 7 months ago

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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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