Old Operating Theatre Museum

A photo showing the interior of the Operating Theatre
Guided tours icon Shop icon Hearing disability facilities icon Visual disability facilities icon

Hidden in the roof of a church, a 300-year old herb garret houses Britain's only surviving 19th century operating theatre. This museum, one of London's most intriguing historical interiors, contains the Operating Theatre, in use between 1821 and 1862 in the days before anaesthetic and antiseptic surgery. The Herb Garret, a "delightful experience of oak beams" was used by the apothecary of St Thomas' Hospital to store the herbs used within patients medicines.

The museum offers a full education service combined with cutting edge public events, including Victorian Surgery, Horror Hospital, and regular art exhibitions and special guest lecturers.

Venue Type:

Museum, Historic house or home

Opening hours

Open daily, Mon - Sun, from 10.30-17.00. Admission is up a steep, narrow 32 step spiral staircase, in the bell tower of St Thomas' Church

Closed 15 Dec - 5 Jan inclusive

Admission charges

Adults: £6.50
Concessions: £5
Child: £3.50
Family (2 adults + 2 children, £1 per additional child): £15

Groups are welcome when pre-booked (over 10 people) and will receive a free lecture/introduction to the Museum.

Discounts

  • National Trust

Additional info

Please note that unfortunately there is no disabled access to the museum for the moment.

The Museum has a diverse collection of medical, surgical and herbal objects, including amputation sets, bloodletting instruments, pharmaceutical jars, and nursing and obstetric instruments and items.

Collection details

Architecture, Industry, Medicine, Natural Sciences, Personalities, Science and Technology, Social History

Key artists and exhibits

  • The Old Operating Theatre - the oldest operating theatre in Britain and the Herb Garret exbitition.
Events details are listed below. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all. For events that don't have a specific date see the 'Resources' tab above.
Resurrection Men

The Night of the Body Snatchers

  • 25 October 2018 7-9pm

Today, the body snatchers who crept into the burial grounds of Georgian London to dig up the dead for the anatomy schools of London seem like characters from a dark gothic story. But the body snatchers were not characters from fiction and the lucrative trade in human corpses was real.
Hear the real story of London's Resurrection Men, and the anatomy schools they supplied and discover how the development of surgery in the Enlightenment lead to the business of selling the dead.

Join Kirsty Chilton, our own museum researcher, and an expert on the topic of Bodysnatching in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Tickets: £12.00

Doors will open at 6:30 PM.

*Access: The Museum is only accessible through a 52-step spiral staircase.

Suitable for

  • 18+

Admission

£12.00

Website

http://www.oldoperatingtheatre.com/events/the-night-of-the-body-snatchers

A seance scene from the 1922 film Dr. Mabuse the Gambler. Michael Faraday and Harry Houdini were among the prominent sceptics of spiritualism.

The Victorian Séance: From the Occult to the Gin Parlour

  • 26 October 2018 7-9pm

Although rituals to commune with the dead have been part of the human experience reaching back through cultures and time immemorial, what has had the strongest foothold in our Western cultural imagination today is that of the Victorian séance. From its roots in the romantic era gothic imagination to fascinations with the boundaries of science, Victorian fringe exploration into the esoteric manifested itself by way of a variety of literary masterpieces and occult societies – the most famous of which was founded by the ‘Wickedest Man in the World’, Aleister Crowley. Out of this kaleidoscopic swirl of occult beliefs and investigations, penny dreadfuls and parlour tricks, the Victorian séance is the most archetypal symbol of this era of the transmundane. The iconic image of hands held around candles and draped tables encompasses participants from the sorrow-filled hopeful widow to gin-soaked giggling party guests. In this evening lecture, Dr Romany Reagan will take us on an exploration of the beginnings of occultism and the gothic imagination in Victorian culture. From William Blake’s otherworldly visions up into Arthur Machen’s doors of perception exploring secret patterns in our everyday lives, this talk will offer perspectives on the cultural trends and psychology behind the Victorian séance up to today’s Ouija board – and why, over 170 years later, we still love to flirt with the question: do you believe?

Dr. Romany Reagan received her doctorate from Royal Holloway, University of London in performing heritage, with a focus on community engagement. Her practice-based research project ‘Abney Rambles’ is a series of four audio walks written for Abney Park cemetery. Her continued work with Abney Park aims to engage the local community of Stoke Newington, the wider community of Hackney, and all visitors to the cemetery, with the space and to offer different perspectives on what a cemetery can represent within its local community. Reagan’s walk ‘Crossing Paths/Different Worlds in Abney Park Cemetery’ was published in Ways to Wander (Triarchy Press, 2015) Twitter: @msromany.

Because it is Halloween Weekend, this event will also run a special costume contest. The best Victorian or medical themed costume will win 2 free tickets to one of our Film Nights.

Doors will open at 6:30 PM.

Tickets: £12.00.

*Access is through a 52-step spiral staircase.

Suitable for

  • 18+
  • 16-17

Admission

£12.00

Website

http://www.oldoperatingtheatre.com/events/the-victorian-s%C3%A9ance-from-the-occult-to-the-gin-parlour

Resources listed here may include websites, bookable tours and workshops, books, loan boxes and more. You may need to scroll down or click on headers to see them all.

Public Health in the Victorian Period Guided Walk

http://www.thegarret.org.uk/education.htm

The walk is complementary to a visit to the Old Operating Theatre, Museum & Herb Garret, it provides a tour of surviving parts of Old St. Thomas’s Hospital, historic parts of Guy’s Hospital and a detailed look at the conditions in Victorian London. It can be delivered both to school groups and to medical groups. The school’s walk is closely tied to the National Curriculum, and can be tailored either to Key Stage 2 Victorian Britain, or to ‘Medicine Through Time.
The aim of the walk is to give an overview of Victorian Life with a particular emphasis on how conditions affected public health. We give graphic illustration of the effects of ignorance and poverty in Victorian Southwark. We

Creator

  • Museum Staff

Publisher

  • The Old Operating Theatre

How to obtain

http://www.thegarret.org.uk/education.htm or ring
020 7188 2679

THE HERB GARRET: Activity Hour programme

http://www.thegarret.org.uk/education.htm

The session is led by one of the curatorial staff, who lead the class through a wide range of activities, designed to teach them about the medicines of the past. All the children can try grinding herbs, with some assisting in making pills, tablets and poultices.

Creator

  • Museum Staff

Publisher

  • The Old Operating Theatre Museum

How to obtain

http://www.thegarret.org.uk/education.htm or ring
020 7188 2679

Old Operating Theatre Museum
9A St Thomas' Street
London
Greater London
SE1 9RY
England

logo: Museums at Night

Website

www.oldoperatingtheatre.com

E-mail

Museum Staff and enquiries

info@oldoperatingtheatre.com

Director

kpflude@chr.org.uk

Telephone

020 7188 2679

All information is drawn from or provided by the venues themselves and every effort is made to ensure it is correct. Please remember to double check opening hours with the venue concerned before making a special visit.
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