I travel as much as possible at home and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences
Published September 15th 2013
An unusual look at early surgery and medicine
The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garrett is contained in the attic of St Thomas' Church, Southwark. The museum has a dramatic entrance. First, visitors pass under a large hanging skull composed of early amputation knives and surgical tools and then wind their way up a narrow spiral staircase into an overflowing gift shop.
Once admission is paid, the attic museum is accessed via another staircase. The museum includes a herb garrett dating to 1703, the oldest surviving operating theatre in Europe, an unusual collection of surgical tools, early medicines, skeletons, pathology samples, pharmaceutical tools, and other medical objects related to nursing history.
The hospital mainly served a population of poor patients and also served to educate medical students. The theatre allowed for students to crowd together in rows to watch an operation 'like herrings in a barrel', as one eye-witness described it. Due to the lack of reliable anaesthesia and the great risk of infection, surgery was a very limited field and often the last resort. Typical surgeries performed in the operating theatre included amputations, removal of bladder stones, and some operations on the skull (trephination).