London Sights


Old Operating Theatre Museum

Old Operating Theatre Museum Review

This rare example of a 19th-century operating theater, the oldest in Europe, dates back to 1822, when part of the large attic of the 17th-century St. Thomas's church was converted for surgical use. The church was part of St. Thomas's Hospital, which was founded in the 12th century as a monastery that looked after the sick. In 1862, the hospital moved to its present Lambeth location and the operating theater was closed. It remained abandoned until 1956, when it was restored and turned into a medical museum. Today you can see the artifacts of early-19th-century medical practice: the wooden operating table under a skylight; the box of sawdust underneath used for absorbing blood; and the surrounding banks of seats where students crowded in to observe operations. Every Saturday at 2 there are demonstrations of surgical practices incorporating the knives, pliers, and handsaws that were the surgeons' tools back in the day. Next door is a recreation of the Herb Garret, with displays of the medicinal herbs St. Thomas's apothecary would have used, and there are Sunday afternoon talks on herbal medicine at 3.

    Contact Information

  • Address: 9A St. Thomas St., Lambeth, London, SE1 9RY | Map It
  • Phone: 020/7188–2679
  • Cost: £6.20
  • Hours: Daily 10:30–5. Closed Dec. 15–Jan. 5
  • Website:
  • Subway: London Bridge
  • Location: South of the Thames
Updated: 02-27-2014

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