The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, London

4.5
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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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Where to stay in London

Many of London's main attractions are spread out, so nearby public transportation is key. There is no downtown area as such in London, and some of the least expensive hotels have more convenient access to tourist sites than the costlier ones. For a quintessential London experience, consider staying in the West End. This part of town offers excellent theaters, historical sites, and eating and shopping options for every taste. Lodging won’t be cheap, but you’ll have the colorful variety of London life right at your doorstep. Look at Notting Hill or Chelsea for charming and less expensive boutique hotels and B&Bs.
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Google
4.6
  • The old operating theatre is a little disguised at the moment as its under scaffolding outside but it was more than worth the search! The entrance is up some very steep and narrow wooden steps which r...  more »
  • It's the second time I've been to the old operating theatre and herb garret but I've found something I hadn't seen before each time. Great exhibits, absolutely fascinating to see the range of surgical...  more »
  • I would normally not leave a bad review about a temporarily closed attraction. The museum is currently closed for refurbishment, but there is no notice on their official website to say so. Hopefully t...  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.