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Old Operating Theatre in London 2024-2025

Britain's oldest surviving operating theatre​ dates back to 1822

Best time: all year round

Old Operating Theatre
Old Operating Theatre
Old Operating Theatre
Old Operating Theatre
Old Operating Theatre
Old Operating Theatre

The Old Operating Theatre Museum, a museum of surgical history, located in the garret of St Thomas's Church on the original site of St Thomas' Hospital. There is also an old apothecary, known as the “Herb Garret.” The museum was founded by Richard Mead, a doctor of St. Thomas, who was known for treating venereal diseases with snail water.

The operating theatre boasts a collection of instruments for cupping, bleeding, and trepanning, or skull-drilling. According to historical evidence, surgeries were conducted without anaesthetic, so the patients were often awake at the operating table looking at the surgeon.

In 1859, Florence Nightingale founded a nursing school at St. Thomas's and insisted that the hospital was moved to a new site. In 1862, the hospital was moved to Lambeth, and the operating theatre closed. The museum is open on Mondays from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm and Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm.

Practical info

When was the Old Operating Theatre in London established?

Dating back to 1822, the Old Operating Theatre in London is the oldest surviving operating theatre in Britain. It is housed in the Old Operating Theatre Museum, which is located in the attic of St Thomas's Church where St Thomas' Hospital originally stood. Show more

Where is the Old Operating Theatre Museum located?

The museum housing the Old Operating Theatre, which is Britain's oldest surviving operating theatre, can be found in the attic of St Thomas's Church. The church stands on the site of St Thomas' Hospital, where the theatre was previously used. Although the hospital has since moved, the museum is still accessible for visits. Show more

What is the historical significance of the Old Operating Theatre in London?

The Old Operating Theatre in London holds historical importance as the oldest surviving operating theatre in Britain. It highlights the evolution of surgical history and showcases the collection of instruments that were previously used in surgeries conducted without anaesthesia, such as those for cupping, bleeding, and skull-drilling. Visitors can gain insight into the past methods of medical procedures. Show more

When did the Old Operating Theatre close?

The theatre closed in 1862 after Florence Nightingale championed the need for a new nursing school and moved St Thomas's Hospital to a different location. Today, the museum that holds the Old Operating Theatre, called the Old Operating Theatre Museum, is still open, allowing visitors to learn more about the surgical practices of the past. Show more

What instruments were used in surgeries conducted at the Old Operating Theatre without anaesthetic?

Surgical instruments such as amputation saws and bone chisels were utilized in the surgeries held at the Old Operating Theatre, all without the use of anaesthesia. Patients had to undergo procedures with tools for cupping, bleeding, and skull-drilling, as well as other surgical instruments. Since patients were awake during their surgeries, certain measures were implemented to manage pain and discomfort. Show more

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