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: Closed
  • 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

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

5 Star Rating It took me a while to find the place, but it was amazing. I loved the exposition and specially the operating theatre. The gift shop has excellent options and the staff is really nice. I highly recommend this place.

Joana Gehlen Tessaro - 20 days ago

5 Star Rating This is a hidden gem; a small but rich experience in the heart of London Bridge; only accessible via a precarious 52-step-spiral-staircase, Europe's oldest surviving operating theatre is tightly squeezed into a roof attic with a huge skylight (which floods the room with natural light). For £6.50 I attended a live talk on Victorian surgical procedures; whilst remaining grotesque this was also fascinating due to their highly knowledgable staff who allow you to handle the original surgical tools. The other half of the museum is a collection of medicinal paraphernalia ranging from medicines made from garden herbs to ominous looking leach jars. It's sheer wonder anyone survived back then!

MW Berry - 1 month ago

5 Star Rating It's really small but I found myself wandering there for something like 1 hour. To get there there are a lot of narrow steps so it's not the ideal for elders or children but if you manage to get the kids up there, there is a really cute quest around the museum that the museum staff organized for the younger audience. The stories, the spaces and the tools that are shown are incredibly worth the (low) price of the entrance. Super recommended.

Pineapple - 2 months ago

4 Star Rating I've lived in London for years, passed this place so many times and didn't even know it was there. The collection is really good, makes you realise how far we've come! I'd recommend going when there is a tour you can tag onto though as it makes such a difference having someone explain the history of the operating room.

maeve hall - 2 months ago

Video


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

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