A date for your diaries, as the Old Operating Theatre close to London Bridge, will be marking the 60th anniversary of its opening to the public with a free entry day.
The operating theatre was closed in 1862 when St Thomas’s Hospital moved to Waterloo, and then entirely forgotten — until 1956, when organologist and antiquarian Raymond Russell rediscovered it while investigating the church’s attic and with support from surgeons and medical practitioners of the day, the Museum that now occupies the site opened in 1962. To visit to the museum this year is a double anniversary – the 200th year the theatre opened, and the 60th anniversary of its reopening as a museum.
Being based in the roof of a former church, entry is up a narrow winding stone staircase – access via a lift is possible if arranged in advance — and then into the wooden rafters of a room packed full of medical tools and ever so many medicinal herbs.
The museum usually costs £7.50 to visit — but on Thursday 27th October, entry will be free for everyone.
Entry is up a narrow spiral staircase as the operating theatre was built above an old church, so space is a bit limited, and they do warn that they may need to limit visitor numbers if it gets busy.
The museum will be open for free from 10:30am to 5pm with last entry at 4:15pm. No booking is needed.
The museum is on St Thomas Street, a short walk from London Bridge station and Borough High Street.
It’s a fantastically atmospheric space, all woody and smelly and filled with Victorian bottles filled with poisons (don’t drink), baskets of spices and herbs (do sniff), and a few skeletons to scare the kids (don’t touch). It’s the sort of space that people brought up on Harry Potter will probably love to visit.
A visit to the museum is to take in a lost world that was on the cusp between folk medicine and modern science. You can visit to learn about early medicines and surgery, or just to soak up the wonderfully atmospheric roof rafters space it occupies.
If you want to visit on another date, you can book tickets in advance from here.