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

Old Operating Theatre Hours:
Opening 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

Old Operating Theatre Reviews

Rated 4.6 out of 5 Star Rating

5 Star Rating Awesome little find and cheap to get in. Can't believe the history here. It's amazing to think that it's from 1820. Would recommend checking this place out. There's spiral stairs upwards which are quite steep so anyone with accessibility needs may need to ask about alternative access.
Christina Connelly - a month ago

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5 Star Rating Interesting little museum located at the top of a 52 step spiral staircase. Home to what use to be a herb garret and one of the oldest surviving operating theatres in the country. Not the largest of museums, but for the relatively low price for entry (especially with the 2-4-1 tickets), it is well worth it.
Ian Fry - 2 weeks ago

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4 Star Rating Found this on google map near my to-go places and got a pleasant surprise. First you would need to climb up a flight of 52-step narrow claustrophobic spiral staircase to get to the reception office. Note the green/red light to see if you can/cannot go up/down, red light indicates someone is already using the staircase. The museum was actually a garret that once was an apothecary and contained the oldest operating theatre. Lucky to bump into a free tour at 14:25 (odd time) which lasted around 15min, well worth it.
Vee Kwok - a month ago

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5 Star Rating Very fun museum for anyone in the medical profession. I enjoyed getting to see the old operating theatre as well as history on various surgical tools, anesthesia, and general medicine during previous time periods. The staff that worked there was very friendly. Note- you have to walk up a very steep/long winding staircase to get to the museum.
Alan Ritchie - a month ago

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4 Star Rating This place is straight out of Robert Louis Stevenson. You can picture Dr Jekyll walking through the old operating theatre to get to his chemistry laboratory and turn himself into Mr Hyde. Very evocative and interesting. The staff were engaging and the building is curious and fun. Definitely worth a visit.
nicholas phillips - 3 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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