Old Operating Theatre Museum, London

A wonderful hidden gem is the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret at the top of the church tower of St. Thomas near Borough Market in London (rebuilt 1703).  It seems an odd place to find an operating theatre but the south wing of St. Thomas’ hospital was originally built around the church.

You step off the street and into a narrow, steep spiral staircase.  This is the only access to the museum and adds to the sense of secrecy. 

The ‘Herb Garret ‘ refers to the Apothecary store that was originally established in the large roof space.  The museum is an eclectic mixture of objects ranging across areas and eras.  It is cross between a cabinet of curiosities, a medieval apothecary, an anatomical and surgical museum and cabinets full of miscellaneous loosely associated objects.

The operating theatre is the oldest in Europe.  Its unusual placement at the top of the church separated the theatre from the hospital wards.  Its presentation is beautifully simple, with little labeling and no information panels to disturb the distinctive still atmosphere of this unique space. 

Old Operating Theatre Museum
Old Operating Theatre Museum
Herb Garret
Herb Garret