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The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, London

(4.5/5 based on 500+ reviews on the web)
Take a trip to a time before anesthetics and antiseptic surgery at The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, home to the oldest remaining operating theater in the UK. Before the construction of the operating theater in 1822, an apothecary probably used the attic space of St. Thomas' Church (part of St. Thomas' Hospital) to store medicinal plants; records refer to it as the "herb garret" and dried opium poppy heads were discovered in the rafters. Take a tour of the restored theater, complete with a gallery of seats where students would observe the operations, and examine a recreation of the apothecary's store. Various displays exhibit antique medical instruments, detailing the grim realities of past surgical practices. Before you head to London, plan trip itinerary details with our user-friendly London holiday planner, to make sure you see all that London has to offer, including The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • I was so keen to visit this museum as the subject interests me a great deal. The exhibition itself is indeed very interesting with lots of medical implements, specimens and other fascinating artifacts...  more »
  • Full of history of medicine Museum. That it includes from pharmacology to surgery prior to the use of anesthesia.
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  • This museum really is a hidden gem. Located right next to busy London bridge station it is very easy to get to, though the entrance itself is a bit hidden. The operating theatre used to be part of old...  more »
Google
  • I visited for a talk on old time medical charlatans, who would claim things such as giving birth to rabbits. It was a very fascinating and fun talk, which took place in the operating theater. Although built for standing, you can easily sit comfortably as well. They host many events in here, and even a few movie nights, which I hope to return to. The exhibit area outside the theatre room is absolutely amazing! From the actual construction of the room (high peaked ceiling made from timber) to the medical artifacts on display. You'll definitely leave happy to not have been born in the times of these medical devices. The women working here were so friendly and full of knowledge, be sure to ask them loads of questions!
  • I really enjoyed the visit to this small yet unique museum. The museum is on top of what used to be a Church and climbing the wooden circular staircase felt like being on a time trip.. :) They also organise interesting talks.
  • Really interesting, lots of info about old medical practises and a massive amount of info on apothecary / medicinal herbs. Well worth a visit!
  • The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret is a gem for those interested in the history of medicine. Located in London Bridge, this museum is usually overlooked by the visitors who sometimes are more interested in going to the Shard. Yet, if you have at least thirty minutes, it is worth the visit. The museum is located in the attic of a early 18th century church and you have to go up via a spiral staircase that is really memorable. Inside one of the first things that calls your attention is how large the space is and the smell of a thousand herbs that are on display at the museum. Besides the typical objects that you would find in a medical museum (surgery, lithotomy, trepanning, birthing, nursing, etc.), the visitor gets to see the place where surgeries took place in the 19th century. All in all it is an outstanding landmark in the heart of London that deserves much more attention that it is got. Oh! And they also have amazing evening events!
  • Fascinating place, displaying the medicine, tools, practices of 18th century London. It's in an upstairs portion of Old St Thomas church.