The Old Operating Theatre

Published by Jasmine Langcaster-James on

This blog post is a follow-up from my Recent Favourites post, and I’m sharing a place I visited and loved recently, and here it is:

I have been fascinated by the history of medicine and dentistry for a number of years now. A unique and somewhat random interest for a girl in her early twenties with a literature degree I know, but these interests have only been kindled by books and an appreciation for 19thCentury anatomical drawings, rather than attempting any kind of ‘real’ study. A personal favourite book is the stunningly designed ‘The Smile Stealers’ by Richard Barnett about the history and art of dentistry. 

So you can imagine how intrigued I was when I recently saw an Instagram story of friends visiting The Old Operating Theatre at Guy’s and St Thomas Hospital. It’s simply a small attic room and adjoining operating theatre with a beautiful old skylight in the roof of a lovely little church. 

I saved some images straight into my ‘things to do in London’ Instagram folder (yes I have a folder dedicated to being a tourist in my own city, and yes, most of them are food and coffee related…) and made a mental note to look into going there myself. If you ever fancy a sneak peak at my other saved images, I often share them on my Instagram @thejasmineaesthetic

I eventually got round to spending a free afternoon there with my family, and for only £6.50 entry, it was one hundred percent worth the visit. Think stunning amber glass bottles, dried herbs, apothecary drawers, original wooden floorboards, skeletons and century-old colons in jars, what’s not to love? I defy you to wander around without your phone in your hand snapping photos of the little curiosities on display. Despite the colons and skeletons, I don’t want anyone who is affected by gore to be put off; it was very tastefully done and I’m sure wouldn’t twist many stomachs. 

We happened to be there on a day they were having a talk about the museum and the history of surgery, which took place in the operating theatre. This may twist a few stomachs, but was still completely fascinating. The talks take place on Saturdays and Sundays for a very small additional price (£1.50 I think), which I would also recommend if you fancy knowing more about how they used to saw off arms and how Victorians were afraid of anaesthesia – hint, it has something to do with people being accidentally buried alive when they take a little too long to come back round from the operations!

So if you have a spare afternoon in Central London I highly suggest paying a visit, no matter your interests; you may discover a newfound fascination with medical history, just like me. 

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