The Old Operating Theatre

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret will take you back in time and show you the history of surgical procedures as they were carried out in the 19th century.

The Old Operating Theatre, whose full name is actually the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret is the oldest surviving operating theatre in Europe. It was used between 1822 and 1862 and has since become a museum of surgical history.

Although St Thomas’ Church was built between 1698 and 1702, the garret (the top floor of the building) was used to dry and store herbs and medicines by the apothecaries of St Thomas’ Hospital until the second decade of the 19th century.

In 1822, the garret, which was on the same level as the women’s surgical ward of St Thomas’ Hospital, was transformed into an operating theatre. This was a place where penniless patients could get free treatment in exchange for letting doctors use their surgeries as demonstration classes for their students. The medical students would observe the live procedure in a tiered arrangement, like one would in a theatre.

The garret was used as an operating theatre only for 40 years, and in 1862 St Thomas’ Hospital moved to a new site in Lambeth. The Operating Theatre was thus dismantled and almost forgotten until 1956, when a researcher started investigating the history of St Thomas’ Hospital.

The Old Operating Theatre in London
The Old Operating Theatre was closed before antiseptic surgery was developed, meaning that operations relied on swift technique and luck. Author: Jenny O'Donnell Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


9a St Thomas Street, Southwark, London, SE1 9RY

The Old Operating Theatre Museum is located on the top floor of St Thomas’s Church. The Church is down the street from London Bridge, on the southern bank of the River Thames in the Southwark area of Central London. In the area, there are several other monuments and sites of interest.

Just behind the Operating Theatre Museum is the tallest building in the UK, The Shard, and not far from it, moored in the Thames’ waters, is the HMS Belfast, a warship turned museum. On land, opposite the Old Operating Theatre, is the Borough Market. Crossing London Bridge you can find The Monument to the Great Fire of London and just a bit east is the Tower of London, with Tower Bridge right in front of it.

Tickets and price

The Old Operating Theatre requires an admission ticket upon entry. If you wish, you can also book your tickets in advance on the museum’s website, but it is not required. A full-priced adult ticket is £7.50, but discounts are available for visitors with disabilities, children, and families.

Keep in mind that entry to the Old Operating Theatre Museum is included in the 2FOR1 offers. The offers normally grant two tickets for the price of one for all visitors with a valid National Rails ticket.

Adult Visitors w/ disabilities Young visitors (6-16) Children (0-5), carers Family (2 adults + 2 children)
£7.50 £6.00 £4.50 free £18.00

Old Operating Theatre Museum reopening on 21 April 2023

The Old Operating Theatre Museum has recently undergone renovation works and is set to open to the public again on the 21st of April 2023. On this day, entry will be free for all on a first come first serve basis. Booking is not possible for this date.


Being located in the attic space of an old church, the Old Operating Theatre Museum is only open four days a week, from Thursday to Sunday. Opening times go from 10:30 am to 5:00 pm. Visitors are allowed in until 45 minutes before closing time, until 4:15 pm. The Old Operating Theatre remains closed Monday through Wednesday.

Day Opening time Last admission Closing time
Thurs-Sun 10:30 am 4:15 pm 5:00 pm
Mon-Wed closed closed closed


There are a couple of different ways you get to the Old Operating Theatre. The fastest and most popular is by Tube. You can get the Jubilee and Northern lines and get off at London Bridge, one street over from the museum

There also are a lot of buses stopping in the area. Lines 17, 21, 35, 47, 133, 343, 381, and 521 will all drop you off just around the corner from the Old Operating Theatre.

You can find a summary of the public transport options in the table below.

Method Underground Bus
Lines Jubilee, Northern 17, 21, 35, 47, 133, 343, 381, 521
Stops London Bridge -

If you want, you can reach the Old Operating Theatre Museum by taxi, but we don’t recommend it, considering the traffic conditions in central London.

Nearby sights

The Shard - just across the street from the Old Operating Theatre.

Borough Market - 110 m (360 feet) west, 1-minute walk.

The Monument - 750 m (0.5 miles) north, 9-minute walk.

HMS Belfast - 750 m (0.5 miles) east, 10-minute walk.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre - 800 m (0.5 miles) west, 10-minute walk.

Tower Bridge - 1.2 km (0.7 miles) east, 14-minute walk.

Tower of London - 1.2 km (0.8 miles) northeast, 16-minute walk.

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The Old Operating Theatre