In the mid-1800s, before general anesthesia, St Thomas’ Hospital used the attic of a neighboring church as a space where surgeries, mostly amputations and other quick-hit procedures, could be conducted where students could watch but other patients couldn’t hear the agonized screams. When the hospital moved in 1862, it was abandoned, sealed away, and forgotten. It was considered lost until 1956, when an enterprising historian thought to look in the attic, and found the secret surgical stadium behind a wall. Creep up a tight wooden spiral staircase once used by the bell ringer and you’ll find the theater, now the centerpiece of a ghoulish, but carefully educational, museum delving into medical methods of the early 1800s, from herbal remedies to leeches. On a recent visit, a 7-year-old boy in a visiting school group nearly passed out during a mock bloodletting showand-tell; the staff, accustomed to fainters, casually produced a pillow and a glass of water without halting the demonstration, proving that in the old days, medicine was less about science and more about soldiering on. Which you must also do; there are no toilets here.
The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
9a St Thomas St., SE1.
Our Rating Hours Tues–Sun 10:30am–5pm. Closed late Dec–early Jan. Transportation Tube: London Bridge. Phone 020/7188-2679 Prices Admission £6.50 adults, £5 seniors and students, £3.50 children 17 and under. Web site The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret
Map9a St Thomas St., SE1. London
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.