Home » Posts tagged 'London Bridge'

Tag Archives: London Bridge

Review: The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret in London

Tucked away in an old church near London Bridge station is one of London’s more unusual museums which tells the story of the long history of hospitals in this area and the sometimes gruesome story of surgical history.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret in St Thomas Street is one of the oldest surviving operating theatres. It is located in the garret of St Thomas’s Church, Southwark, on the original site of St Thomas’ Hospital.

St Thomas’ is one of London’s oldest hospitals, operating in one form and another since the twelfth century. Originally part of the Priory of St Mary Overie, it was renamed The Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr following the canonisation of Thomas a Becket in 1173. Southwark at this time was the location for many brothels and theatres and developed a reputation for vice. At the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, St Thomas’ was closed by Henry VIII and Beckett was decanonised. However the hospital was soon reopened but renamed the Hospital of St Thomas the Apostle.

Between 1693 and 1709 the hospital was rebuilt on a more permanent basis covering a wide area constructed around three courtyards. The rebuilt St Thomas’s could accommodate more than 400 patients and had nineteen wards, four of which were for venereal patients. The rebuilding also replaced the medieval church with the church which now houses the museum. At this time, Thomas Guy founded the nearby hospital, Guy’s, which still stands on the site.

An important medical advance in the eighteenth century was the introduction of operating theatres. These were often located on the top floor to ensure they received the benefit of daylight. In St Thomas’s, the male theatre was built in 1751 and the female theatre in 1821. Operations had to be carried out quickly, anaesthetics weren’t used until 1847 and antiseptic surgery was not introduced until the 1860s.

Florence Nightingale opened up her school for nurses at St Thomas’ in 1859, but in the same year the site of the Hospital was acquired by the Charing Cross Railway following Parliament’s decision to extend the London Bridge railway line from Greenwich across the River Thames. St Thomas’s left Southwark in 1862 and moved to Lambeth opposite the Houses of Parliament, most of its buildings in Southwark were demolished.

The church that contains the Old Operating Theatre Museum was built at the end of the 17th century, the new church was fitted out with a large garret constructed in the ‘aisled-barn’ tradition. The garret was fitted with wooden storage racks, and described as “the herb garret” in 1821. It is suggested that the garret was used by the hospital’s apothecary to store and cure medicinal herbs.

In 1822, part of the herb garret was converted into a purpose-built operating theatre. This is not as strange as it sounds because the female surgical ward was situated next to the garret. A skylight was put in and other windows added and other spaces may have been used as a recovery ward.

In 1862, when St Thomas’ Hospital moved, the Operating Theatre was partly dismantled and the entrances from the Hospital into the Garret were blocked up. It was then mainly forgotten, except for references in medical academic publications. In 1956, Raymond Russell was researching the history of St Thomas’ Hospital and decided to investigate the garret. He was amazed to find that although part of the operating theatre had been demolished, most of the structure had survived. Raymond Russell’s find was considered unique, no other 19th century operating theatre in Europe had survived. In 1962, after 100 years of disuse, the garret and operating theatre were opened to the public as a museum.

The collection was originally donated by various representatives of the London NHS Hospitals and by private donors to Lord Russell Brock, founder of the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret. The original collection comprised of around three hundred items, over the years of the Museum’s existence, acquisitions to the collection have been acquired from private individuals and staff of St Thomas’ and Guy’s Hospitals.

The modern visitor goes from the bustle of the modern world in Thomas Street and walks up a series of narrow wooden stairs to be transported into a different world where the collection of artefacts revealing the horrors of medicine before the age of modern science

There is a large section on herbs and their use in medicine for centuries.

The medical displays includes: surgical and pharmaceutical objects, hospital furniture, a small collection of human pathology specimens and a small image collection.

A collection of artefacts revealing the horrors of medicine before the age of science. Includes instruments for cupping, bleeding, trepanning, and childbirth.

Displays on medieval monastic health care, the history of St Thomas’s, Guy’s Hospital and Evelina Children’s Hospital, Florence Nightingale and nursing, medical and herbal medicine.

The Apothecary was the equivalent of the modern chemist shop and hospitals used to employ people who had particular skills for mixing and understanding herbal and chemical ingredients. They often specially-shaped containers for potentially poisonous substances.

The Operating Theatre itself is a bit of surprise, being quite small and intimate. When you remember operations were often watched by up to one hundred medical students and with various people working in the theatre, it was no surprise that patients were often blindfolded. The museum staff often give entertaining talks about the horrors of surgery in the early 19th century, but as they often remark, many patients consented because it was a chance to survive a situation where the alternative was death.

The Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret is a unique attraction and one of London’s hidden gems. It is a must see for anyone medically minded but is a reminder for everyone the way that medicine has moved forward in the last two hundred years. Although we might recoil in horror at the operations and instruments, at the time they were state of the art and saved many lives. The setting of the museum is well worth a visit, the ‘aisled-barn’ roof of the church provides a wonderful backdrop to a fascinating museum.

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.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information and tickets, visit the Museum website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website

The Museum of London Frost Fair from 19 November 2018 – 6 January 2019

The Museum of London will celebrate a unique London tradition that last took place over 200 years ago. The museum will become an immense frost fair as it begins a whole season of special events celebrating a traditional Christmas in the capital.

Between 1309 and 1814, the Thames would freeze on a regular basis; in that time at least seven frost fairs assembled on the ice. As the Thames froze, river traders and nearby businesses would take to the ice to sell their wares, creating a festival that would last until the ice thawed. Thames Watermen converted their boats into temporary stages and the frozen Thames played host to pubs, food stalls, coffee shops, souvenir stands and puppet shows. Printing presses produced souvenir publications and there were even rumours of an elephant being brought on to the frozen river near Blackfriars Bridge.

The water of the Thames was able to freeze as temperatures were much lower, but this was also due to the fact that the river flowed much more slowly than it does today. Since 1831, when the old London Bridge resting on nineteen solid piers was demolished and replaced with a new bridge with just five arches, the river has flowed too quickly to freeze. The Thames frost fair is a spectacle that will probably never happen again.

Visitors will create Christmas crafts and enjoy free performances of traditional festive tales, and the museum’s beloved Victorian Santa’s grotto will return, with children meeting Father Christmas and receiving a traditional toy, amidst a Victorian Street scene. The Museum of London frost fair runs from 19 November 2018 – 6 January 2019.

Museum of London Christmas Events

All events are free unless stated

Santa’s Victorian Grotto Dates: Sat 1–Sun 23 December 2018 Take a stroll through a twinkling Victorian Walk, transformed with festive decorations and the sound of carols, and discover Santa in his secret grotto. Tell Santa your Christmas wishes and receive a special gift. You can even have a photo taken to capture the moment. Book in advance, £10 (includes gift). Photographs available at additional cost.

The Thames frost fair Dates: Sat 1 & Sat 8 December 2018 at 1–1.30pm, 2–2.30pm & 3-3.30pm Imagine a winter so cold the Thames freezes over completely. It last happened over two hundred years ago during London’s final frost fair. Join us to create a frost fair scene that recaptures the magic of these special celebrations on the Thames.

Freezing frost fairs Dates: Sun 2 & Sun 9 December 2018 at 12.30–2pm & 2.30–4pm Join us for a Christmas craft session and create your very own frost fair scene that recaptures the magic of these special celebrations on the Thames.

Christmas Paper Crafts: a Frost Fair Workshop Dates: Sat 8 December 2018 from 1.30–4.30pm Get crafty for Christmas in this fun and festive workshop. Learn all the skills you need to make charming paper decorations and cards, inspired by the great frost fairs of Victorian London. You don’t need any experience, and all materials will be provided to create your beautiful crafts.

Season’s Greetings Dates: Sun 16 December 2018 from 12.30–2pm & 2.30–4pm Design a beautiful sparkly card to send to friends and family this festive season. Whether it’s a thank you card after the Festival of Lights, or a card in advance of Christmas, get creative and inspired by seasonal cards in our collection.

The Legend of Babushka Dates: Sat 15 & Sun 22 December 2018 from 1–1.30pm, 2–2.30pm & 3-3.30pm Take part in this interactive retelling of the traditional Russian story in which a little old lady heads off to see the baby Jesus. Along the way, she ends up giving away her gifts to people in need. After the story, discover different wrapping paper designs and create your own.

Cops & Robbers Dates: Thu 27 & Fri 28 December 2018 from 1–1.30pm, 2–2.30pm & 3-3.30pm Can you help a brave police officer catch the robbers of London town when they try to steal all the toys one Christmas Eve? Watch out for Granny Swagg and make sure she doesn’t get away in this fun re-imagining of Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s bestselling book, ‘Cops and Robbers’ with some traditional pantomime action!

Get Your Party Hats On! Dates: Sat 29–Mon 31 December 2018 from 12.30–2pm & 2.30–4pm Decorate a special hat and go hunting in the galleries for more at this art drop-in. From a worker’s cap or an office clerk’s bowler, to an aristocratic top hat, or the Queen’s crown, which hat will you choose to wear? Pick a hat from our silhouettes and decorate it with lots of glitter and festive sparkle to wear at your celebrations. Then try to spot them in the galleries!

If you would like further information, visit the Museum of London website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Annual Sheep Drive across London Bridge – 30th September 2018

It is fair to say that visitors to London visit and enjoy many of its attractions, however one of the joys of the capital is that you come across weird and wonderful events all throughout the year.

One of the stranger events is the Annual Sheep Drive across London Bridge organised by The Worshipful Company of Woolmen. This illustrious Livery Company was in the past responsible for overseeing wool merchants and ensuring industry standards. Today the company aims promote the wool industry and interest in wool, wool products, sheep farming, shearing, wool production and textiles and design.

In more recent times, The Worshipful Company of Woolmen have organised the Annual Sheep Drive across London Bridge which allows Freemen of the City of London to undertake one of the major perks of their position and practice their ancient right to drive sheep over London Bridge. The drive is undertaken for a number of charitable causes and usually is open by a well known celebrity, this year it was one of Britain’s favourite presenters, Alan Titchmarsh.

Although it is considered a fun event, driving sheep over London Bridge by Freemen of the City is a tradition that goes back more than 800 years. It is also a reminder of the importance in the past of London Bridge which was for centuries, the city’s only river crossing and trading route.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in 2014, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

A Short Guide to London Bridges


Bridges have played a major part in the way that London has developed but are often the source of some confusion for visitors to London.

At the last count there were 34  bridges over the Thames , however we will concentrate on the main bridges in Central London. So here is a short guide to give you some insight into some of London’s most intriguing structures.


Tower Bridge  was built 1886–1894  is a combined bascule and suspension bridge, lying close to the Tower of London. This year celebrating its 120th birthday it has become one of the iconic sights of London. Often at the centre of celebrations on the river and raises its roadway to let shipping through on a regular basis.

Tower Bridge is often called by visitors “London Bridge”, however London Bridge is further downriver and is one of the most historic crossings in London.


London Bridge refers to several historical bridges that have spanned the River Thames between the City of London and Southwark. The current bridge  dates from 1973, this replaced a 19th-century stone-arched bridge which was transported to the United States to become a tourist attraction. The 19th century bridge replaced  the famous  600-year-old medieval bridge.

medieval lon

Even before the medieval bridge there were a number  of timber bridges dating as far back as the Romans.

Until 1729, London Bridge was the only road crossing across the Thames in the London area.


Southwark  Bridge is an arch bridge opened in 1921, a previous bridge on the site, designed by John Rennie, opened in 1819, and was originally known as Queen Street Bridge.


The Millennium Bridge,  is a steel suspension bridge for pedestrians crossing the River Thames linking Bankside with the City of London. Construction of the bridge began in 1998, with the opening in June 2000.

After its somewhat uncertain opening ( it was nicknamed the “Wobbly Bridge”  because of the movement), It quickly became a favourite of both Londoners and visitors linking St Pauls to the Tate Modern and the Globe.


Blackfriars Railway Bridge is a railway bridge, the first bridge was opened in 1864 which became unsafe and  was dismantled, however the series of columns were left as well as the  Southern abutment. The second bridge opened in 1886.

Blackfriars Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge the first bridge on the site opened to the public in 1769, at the time it was the third bridge across the Thames in London. It was originally named “William Pitt Bridge”

The present bridge which in 1869 was opened by Queen Victoria is 923 feet  long, it become internationally known in 1982 when the body of Roberto Calvi an Italian banker was found hanging from one of the arches .


Waterloo Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge crossing the River Thames  between Blackfriars Bridge and Hungerford Bridge.

The first bridge on the site was designed in 1809-10 by John Rennie opened in 1817 .  During the 19th century  the bridge gained a somewhat unfortunate reputation as a popular place for suicide attempts.

However it is considered the views from the bridge are some of the most picturesque on the river and the bridge became a popular subject for artists.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, serious structural problems were found on Rennie’s bridge and the decision was made to demolish it, it was eventually replaced by a new bridge which opened in 1945.

Completed during the war  and using a number of women in the workforce, the bridge is sometimes called  “the ladies’ bridge”.

Waterloo Bridge was the scene of a ” Cold War ” murder when in 1978 ,Georgi Markov  a Bulgarian dissident was assassinated by agents connected to the KGB


The Hungerford Bridge crosses the River Thames in London, and lies between Waterloo Bridge and Westminster Bridge. It is a railway bridge  flanked by two pedestrian bridges that share the railway bridge’s foundations, and which are named the Golden Jubilee Bridges. in honour of the fiftieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession.


Westminster Bridge is a road and foot traffic bridge over the River Thames  linking Westminster on the north side and Lambeth on the south side.

Although a bridge at Westminster was proposed in the 17th century, it was not 1750 that Westminster Bridge finally completed. In the 19th century the bridge was in poor condition and the decision was made to replace it.  The current bridge opened on 24 May 1862, It is the oldest road bridge across the Thames in central London.

The bridge is painted mainly green, to reflect  the same colour as the House of Commons whose position of the Palace of Westminster is nearest the bridge. This is in contrast to Lambeth Bridge which is red, the same colour as  the House of Lords and is on the opposite side of the Palace of Westminster.


Lambeth Bridge is a road traffic and footbridge crossing the River Thames , it is on the site of the horse ferry between the Palace of Westminster and Lambeth Palace on the south bank.

The first bridge was opened  in 1862 , but  with doubts about it safety in 1910 it was closed to vehicles.

The present bridge was opened in  1932 .

The Museum of London will be putting on an exhibition between the 27th June and 2nd November 2014 called Bridge which features paintings, prints, photographs and films.

For more information visit their website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in January, we attract thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.

We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Great London Pubs – The George Inn – Borough


The George Inn

Location – The George Inn Yard, 77 Borough High Street, Southwark, London, SE1 1NH

The George Inn is one of the most famous pubs on the South side of the River Thames, it is the last surviving galleried London coaching Inn and is currently owned by the National trust.


There has been an Inn on this site from at least 1543, and there are records that show the George was rebuilt in 1677 after the fire that destroyed much of medieval Southwark. At this time there were a large number Inns in the area due to its proximity to London Bridge. One of the most famous the Tabard where Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales pilgrims departed from was also rebuilt at this time but was eventually demolished in the 19th century.


The pub has other literary connections being mentioned in Dicken’s Little Dorrit, this was an area Dickens was very familiar with because his father had been imprisoned in the nearby Marshalsea prison and there is evidence that he  frequented the George on his travels through the neighbourhood.


The building is Grade I listed, and has a host of small rooms and wonderful outside drinking area.


Even if you do not go for a drink, it is well worth visiting and admire the galleries which once would have been vantage points for watching plays and events in the courtyard.

For practical advice for your visit to London and Special offers go to visitinglondonguide.com

The Shard


The Shard

Location – The View from The Shard, Joiner Street, London SE1 3UD


The Shard is the tallest building in London standing at a height of 1,016ft (310m), it is also the tallest building in Western Europe. The 87 storey skyscraper construction began in 2009 and completed in 2012, it is jointly owned by Sellar Property and the State of Qatar. The Shard has been one of the most controversial of the new skyscrapers to appear in London in the last few years, much of the criticism has been that the Shard dwarfs the other generally low level buildings on the South Bank and distorts the skyline.


The Shard was designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano and is has multi functional uses.

73–87 Floors – Spire

68–72 Floors – The View from the Shard (observatory)

53–65 Floors – Residences

34–52 Floors – Hotel

31–33 Floors – Restaurants (Hutong, Oblix and Aqua Shard)

3–28  Floors – Offices

1–2     Floors – Retail and office reception

Ground Floor – Hotel, restaurant and observatory entrances


The View from The Shard

shard ent

The View from the Shard is a privately operated observation deck attraction which opened in 2013, you travel up to the 68, 69 and 72 floors where 800 feet above the streets of London you can on a clear day see for around 40 miles in each direction.

From October 2013 the opening hours will be: Sunday-Wednesday, 10am-7pm; and Thursday-Saturday, 10am-10pm.

Tickets from £24.95 Adults , £18.95 Child.

VLG Tip We recommend you book your tickets in advance. This way, you will avoid queues and also save money. Advance bookings can be made at any time online up to four months in advance, based on availability.

For more information visit the Shard Website here

The Clink Prison Museum

clink2 (2)

The Clink Museum

Location – 1 Clink St, London , SE1 9DG

The Clink Prison Museum is located on the site of one of the famous prison’s in London. In its various forms it served as a prison from the 12th century to 1780.

clink2 (1)

The prison was owned by the Bishop of Winchester and built next to his Winchester Palace, it had separate Men’s and Women’s Prisons built in around 1144 which rank amongst some of the oldest in England.

The South Bank at this time was notorious site of Brothels, Taverns and other types of entertainment many which was owned or rented from the Bishop of Winchester himself.

At various times different types of prisoners were held here from general lawbreakers up to 16th century when it was then used for heretics and finally in the 18th century was used as a debtors prison.

In 1450 the Winchester Palace and the prison was attacked by rioters who released the prisoners before burning both buildings to the ground. They were rebuilt soon afterwards. By 1760 the Prison was almost a ruin but was still burnt down by Gordon rioters and was never rebuilt.

Although it did not exist after 1760, the name survived in the English Language as slang for ‘Prison’

The Clink Museum gives visitors ” the opportunity to view archaeological artefacts, handle torture devices, and to view and hear all about the tales of torment and many misfortunes of the inmates of the infamous Clink Prison.”

Ticket Prices

Adults £7.50

Children ( under 16 )  £5.50

Concession£5.50 Students,OAP,Disabled

Family £18.00 2 adults & 2 children under 16

Opening Times   Open all year around, 7 days a week ( Closed on Christmas Day )

Summer (July – September ) 10.00 – 21.00

Winter ( October – June )

Monday to Friday 10.00 – 18.00  Weekend10.00 – 19.30

( last admission 30 minutes before closing )

To find out more about the Museum click here

For practical advice and special offers for your London visit go to visitinglondonguide.com