Old Operating Theatre Museum
Located in Southwark, London, The Old Operating Theatre Museum is one of London’s oldest and most intriguing museums.
The original operating theatre was built in 1822 in the garret of Old St Thomas Church as a means of demonstrating surgical and medical procedures, and to highlight the rapidness of many of the surgeons’ skills.
Many poor and destitute people came here to have procedures performed, often without anaesthetic. The Old St Thomas Church garret or attic room is where the celebrated social reformer Florence Nightingale worked in the 13th century, 400 hundred years beforehand. Unfortunately, the operating theatre was blocked up for a hundred years before it was rediscovered in 1956 and transformed into a museum six years later.
The original operating theatre was an image many of us couldn’t even fathom. The operating theatre was open only to the poorest of people, and every single patient at the theatre was female. Anaesthetics were undiscovered and so the procedures were performed extremely swiftly, with amputations happening in a few seconds. The only pain relief patients received included alcohol, opiates and chloroform.
The museum now displays the herb garrets used by the apothecaries, the artefacts that display the horrors of medicine at the time, including instruments for bleeding and childbirth. There is also an in depth history into medieval monastic care and the history of the church and hospital itself.