The Old Operating Theatre, London Bridge

The interior of the Old Operating Theatre Southwark London

The Old Operating Theatre

This is it is the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe!  We left feeling grateful we live in the 21st century.

The Old Operating Theatre was active between 1820 and 1862 – predating anaesthetics and antiseptics.  This is pioneer land in surgical terms.

The place consists of a small museum and an operating theatre – all housed in the attic of the early eighteenth-century church of the old St Thomas’ Hospital.  The atmospheric museum offers a unique insight into the history of medicine and surgery.  The original timber framed Herb Garret was once used to dry and store herbs for patients’ medicines .  Uniquely today, you can handle many of the exhibits.

Why in a church attic?  By accident, the hospital church attic was on the same level as the adjacent hospital patient wards.  In 1820, it was suggested that to avoid distress, surgery should be performed off the ward – so the adjacent church attic was ‘re-purposed’  In the photograph by the blackboard, there was originally a door leading to the hospital wards.

A totally original site and a fabulous visit – please note it’s not accessible for anyone with a physical disability. – the entrance is up a tight 100 step spiral staircase (i.e. the church tower).

St Thomas’ Church, Southwark


Leave a Reply