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.
Create a full London itinerary
map

Plan your trip to London

  • Get a personalized plan

    A complete day-by-day itinerary
    based on your preferences
  • Customize it

    Refine your plan. We'll find the
    best routes and schedules
  • Book it

    Choose from the best hotels
    and activities. Up to 50% off
  • Manage it

    Everything in one place.
    Everyone on the same page.

Plans in London by other users

37 days in Europe BY A USER FROM AUSTRALIA July, kids, popular PREFERENCES: July, kids ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 22 days in United Kingdom BY A USER FROM CANADA September, culture, relaxing, historic sites, popular PREFERENCES: September, culture, relaxing, historic sites ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 8 days in England BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES August, popular PREFERENCES: August ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 5 days in London BY A USER FROM AUSTRALIA July, teens, kids, culture, hidden gems PREFERENCES: July, teens, kids, culture ATTRACTION STYLE: Hidden gems PACE: Medium 22 days in Western Europe BY A USER FROM CANADA September, popular PREFERENCES: September ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 23 days in Europe BY A USER FROM UNITED STATES June, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: June ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 12 days in London BY A USER FROM SAUDI ARABIA March, culture, romantic, popular PREFERENCES: March, culture, romantic ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 18 days in Europe BY A USER FROM INDIA May, popular PREFERENCES: May ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 3 days in London BY A USER FROM IRELAND April, popular PREFERENCES: April ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 18 days in Europe BY A USER FROM FRANCE February, popular PREFERENCES: February ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 27 days in United Kingdom BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM April, kids, popular PREFERENCES: April, kids ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 16 days in Europe BY A USER FROM UNITED KINGDOM April, kids, popular PREFERENCES: April, kids ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium
View more plans
Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • Happened to be passing after a visit to the Skygarden and spent a very happy hour here. Interesting exhibits about 19th century surgery and medical techniques which make you very glad to live in the 2...  more »
  • Went on a cold wet January weekend with my 11 year old. Staff friendly and helpful. They've got a few children's activities which are linked to the theme in an educational way, bit too young for mine ...  more »
  • Super secret hidden gem. It's absolutely tiny but has a lot of interesting things! Make sure to visit the website and join when one of their fascinating talks. 
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.