Sitting in underneath the Shard, this cramped and creepy museum tells the grizzly tale of London’s oldest and forgotten operating theatre.
The Herb Garret of St. Thomas' Church (12th Century), formally an apothecary store, was transformed into an operating theatre in 1822 in order to cope with the increasing number of surgical procedures being performed at Guy’s Hospital. In 1862, the operating theatre was closed; only to be rediscovered in 1956. Much of the original theatre remained and it was opened to the public in 1962.
The narrow staircase off St. Thomas’ Street leads to a room that looks as if it could be part of Hogwarts. Cases display gruesome surgical instruments and herbs which were used as part of Victorian medicine. Keep in mind that anaesthetic was not discovered until after the operating theatre had closed!
Behind the display cases of herbs and surgical instruments is the operating theatre itself. Purpose built to maximise the light from above with a large skylight, apprentice apothecaries and medical students were allowed access to learn from the highest skilled surgeons of the day. Note the sawdust beneath the wooden floorboards in the operating theatre which were used to stop the blood from leaking through to the Church below.
The oldest of its kind in Europe, the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garrett is an unusual and hidden gem underneath the shadow of the Shard.
Mon to Sun: 10:30 – 17:00
London Bridge ( 0.1 mi )
Borough ( 0.4 mi )