The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, London

4.5
#28 of 144 in Historic Sites in London
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 Traveler Rating
539 reviews
Google
4.6
TripAdvisor
  • August 14, 2017
    From the moment in which is entered through a tiny spiral staircase, you move in time. A very small museum but with interesting things, and the visit to the operating room makes it great.
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  • August 13, 2017
    Fabulously interesting place to visit. Went on a Saturday so we could join the theatre talk. Places booked without problem by email before. Little tricky to locate. Museum is fascinating with so much ...  more »
  • August 3, 2017
    The museum is situated in St Thomas's Church and you enter via a spiral staircase. The first thing that hits you when you enter the museum is the smell of herbs. The room where the museum is was forma...  more »
Google
  • Kind of small but packed with interesting artifacts. The staff was very friendly and gave an awesome demonstration of some of the operations equipment. You could tell they were very knowledgeable.
  • A must-see for anyone interested in historical methods of surgery. I went on a day that came with a talk by the historians on the fascinating history of bodysnatching in London in association with local hospitals, and it was memorable.
  • A very "old style" museum, a collection of curios' , weird, odd, strange and creepy items relating to operations and "health care" from across the ages. Little detail, no signs or exhibits...therefore not too interesting for the kids...but a huge collection. The operating theatre itself is impressive to see, but again no tour, no signage. Be ward there are also VERY steep and narrow spiral staircase....part of the charm for us but I can image some people not liking it.
  • 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!
  • Long flight of stairs up quite interesting but the operating theatre is so heavily restored so that the "old" is really a misnomer. Quite expensive for what it is.

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