Home » London Attractions » A Summer of Special Events at the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

A Summer of Special Events at the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

In its bicentenary year, Europe’s oldest operating theatre is welcoming visitors by day with new activities and by night to explore fascinating subjects in one of the most affecting and atmospheric historic settings in the country. As well as staging events on subjects wedded to its history, such as Victorian surgery and medicine and female health and anatomy, the stepped wooden theatre attic of St Thomas’ Church next to London Bridge station will become a venue for late events, talks and theatrical performances.

The Museum has launched a year of special bicentenary events, projects and new developments, including new installations, a full programme of events for visitors, a new guidebook and a research project designed to unearth the stories of the surgeons, nurses, students and patients who worked, studied or found themselves on the operating table at the theatre between 1822 and 1862.

From this summer, visitors to the Museum during daily opening hours will discover the stories of a series of historical characters, each of whom played their own varied roles on the site. Each visitor will be given their own character card on arrival and can choose to follow the lives and destinies of their adopted figure as they make their way around the Museum. Among the people featured are Ward Matron, Sarah Elizabeth Wardroper, patients Elizabeth Raigen and Amelia Jones, surgeon Benjamin Travers, medical student Hampton Weekes and porter James Smith.

The Museum will present a collection of medical exhibits from the collection of Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital Trust. Chief among this collection of syringes, nipple shells, prescription spikes, medicine kits and apothecary bottles is a 16 th century pewter plate likely to have been used for feeding patients in the earliest days of the old St Thomas’ Hospital.

By day and after hours, the Old Operating Theatre becomes one of the most thrilling and unusual performance venues in the capital. Among the newly confirmed events:

Surgery & the Victorian Operating Theatre Live Event

Join us in the Old Operating Theatre, as we return to the Victorian era and reveal the surgical
procedures that happened before a large and noisy crowd in the attic space of an 18th centurychurch. You will explore the origins and history of Old St Thomas’ Hospital, before sitting in on demonstrations of the most common surgical procedures that too place in this original operating theatre 200 years ago, in the days before anaesthesia and antiseptics. Delve into the visceral horrors of surgery that helped pave the way to our modern medical procedures, in the oldest surviving surgical theatre in Europe. Dates: 30 th July, 27 th August, 24 th September, 29 th October, 26 th November.
10-11am. £12.

Vagina Obscura: How medicine “discovered” the clitoris

Female anatomy hasn’t changed much in the past two millennia—but our understanding of it certainly has. Join award-winning science journalist and author Rachel E. Gross on a journey into the past, present and future of perhaps the most-misunderstood organ in the human body: the clitoris.
Join us as we explore what scientists are finally learning about it, as well as how new insights about female genitals are helping medicine to better study and treat all bodies.
Date: 17 th August 2022. 7-8pm. £12.

Trephination for the Twenty-First Century

A one-woman exploration of invasive surgery combines psychological theory and theatrical technique to create an ardent and authentic performance of care. Amanda Grace’s work as a scholar of empathy and performer of care has been staged in fringe venues, around abandoned estates, and on proscenium stages across multiple continents. Date: 7th September 2022. 7-8pm. £20.

The Artificial Womb: In Conversation with Lisa Mandemaker. Virtual Event

An in-conversation event with Lisa Mandemaker, the designer of speculative project, the Artificial Womb. In the future, artificial wombs could replace incubators as they mimic the natural environment of the female uterus. But how will they look? And how should we respond to such technology if it comes knocking on our door? Date: 8th September 2022. 6-7pm. £5


A Quirky Evening at the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret

Come and explore the Museum after dark, encounter the exhibitions at night (creepiness guaranteed!), grab a drink at the Apothecary Wine Bar, discover the tales of the bodysnatchers and participate in mysterious interactive experiences. Musical performance from Lunatraktors. A Museum late to celebrate the upcoming Autumn Equinox. Date: 21st September 2022. 7-9pm. £20.

Scenes from the City: A Civic Education

A new theatrical performance by Edward’s Boys, the all-boy company from King Edward VI School, Stratford-upon-Avon. Scenes from the City: A Civic Education explores how merchants were involved in the worlds of education and entertainment in early modern London. Edward’s Boys will present
ten scenes and songs from works by Thomas Middleton, Ben Jonson, and John Webster, ranging in tone from the celebratory to the bitterly satirical. Much of the material has not been publicly performed since the early seventeenth century. Date: 28th September 2022. 6.15-8.30pm. £20.

Circumcision on the Couch: The Cultural, Psychological and Gendered Dimensions of the World’s Oldest Surgery

Join us for a talk by Jordan Osserman about his recent book, Circumcision on the Couch. Penises, and the things people do with them, have been subjects of controversy for a long time. In this event, Jordan will make use of the surgical setting to bring to life some major themes of his book, including
the nineteenth-century transformation of circumcision from a religious rite to a medical procedure designed to cure ‘nervous illness’. The event will include a short performance, ‘The Foreskin Warriors’, by Greek performance art duo FYTA, and a panel discussion with scholars and clinicians.
Date: 29th September 2022. 6.15-8.15pm. £12.

Visitor Information
Address: Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret, 9a St Thomas Street, London, SE1 9RY.
Opening hours: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 10.30am – 5.00pm. Access is limited as
the Museum is in the attic space of a 320-year-old church. The entrance is via a 52-step narrow spiral
staircase. Admission: Adult: £7.50; Concessions: £6.00; Child 6-16 years: £4.50; Children under 6
years: Free; Family (2 adults, 2 children): £18.00.

For more information and tickets, visit the Museum website here

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