Wednesday 12 June 2019

The Old Operating Theatre Museum

For quite some time I have wanted to visit the Old Operating Theatre Museum since a good friend of mine paid it a visit and couldn't recommend it highly enough. Finally a trip to London for some gigs meant I had the opportunity to pay this unique place a visit at last. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from the Old Operating Theatre, but I certainly experienced far more than my greatest expectations!

Immediately upon arrival at the museum it feels quite hidden away and secretive. Surrounded by landmarks such as The Shard and London Bridge the hustle and bustle of everyday life in the capital seems to pass this slice of history by. Its unusual entrance is secreted through a small door and up a steep spiral staircase winding on and on. At the top you find yourself in the gift shop and entrance, full of all sorts of interesting books and knickknacks to do with anatomy, medical history and a firm favorite; the human skull.

After excitedly paying my entrance fee, I was let loose into the museum. An array of glass jars and bottles, taxidermy and medical equipment awaited me. Only a few people walked around the museum besides myself, however it felt quite busy as it is rather small and consisting of only a handful of rooms. Being quite a fan of my own space in museums (and in general really) I viewed the exhibits in order of least busy. Hopping from place to place to according to where was devoid of anyone else, which gave the visit quite an exciting, energetic feel strangely.

There were countless fantastic photo opportunities throughout the museum, interesting artefacts and instruments behind glass, dioramas, all sorts of jars and bottles arranged interestingly (the ones in the window catching the light were very charming in particular), the old operating theatre itself of course and the Herb Garret with its scales, baskets and a whole manner of different sights and smells.

The sensation of visiting the operating theatre was a curious one indeed. To stand lofty in this (very literally) theatre like space and imagine the kind of things that would have gone on to some poor soul on the table below. Without the mercy of modern medicine and the benefit of the scientific know how we enjoy today. A very unique, strange feeling indeed. What these walls must have seen during their history, operations without the aid of anesthetic and many other modern tools and treatments we take for granted. The horrors and the marvels people have endured while onlookers gawp down in delight. How bizarre.

As I drifted around the main room; The Herb Garret, something absolutely captivated me which I can't properly express in any blog or photograph; the scent. It was utterly enchanting. Baskets and sacks filled with all sorts of herbs and ingredients with important medical ties were dotted around the room. Myrrh, rose petals, lavender, pomegranate, frankincense and countless others, all arranged in amongst pestle and mortar, scales, boiling flasks, plague doctors masks, jars, recipes and all sorts of intriguing elements required to recreate what the Herb Garret may have once looked, and smelled like.

This in particular was my favourite, and honestly the most unexpected part of my visit. Its not very often you come away from a museum raving about how utterly glorious it smelt, and its not the sense you expect to really be heavily engaged in any museum. The Old Operating Theatre Museum is the first museum I can honestly say has engaged almost all of my sense during a visit, as for taste, there wasn't much in those old jars of arsenic and the like I much fancied sampling funnily enough!

If you get the chance to visit The Old Operating Theatre Museum I can't urge you enough to do so. This unique, historically important and fascinating place is a truly fantastic experience. By visiting you are supporting this wonderful charity and keeping alive this slice of our medical history, ensuring the oldest operating theatre in Europe is safeguarded for future generations.

To plan your visit or for more information, visit: