viernes, 7 de mayo de 2010

The Coolest thing I have ever Stumbled upon: The Old Operating Theatre

Last Summer when I was visiting a friend in London, my boyfriend and I were wandering down the street right after getting off the Tube and stumbled upon this gem, an old 17th Century Operating Theater, the oldest surviving operating theatre in Europe!

 It is tucked away high up in the attic of St Thomas' church, up this narrow spiral staircase.


The Herb Garret and operating theatre were boarded up for over 100 years before being rediscovered by  Raymond Russell, who in 1956 was researching the history of St Thomas’s Hospital and decided to investigate an odd opening into the attic.

Among the items he then discovered covered in sawdust and debris:
A pickled human brain;

Authentic victorian era surgical amputation instruments and diagrams;

A 17tth century Herb Garret; 

And the oldest remaining Operating Theatre in all of Europe.

In other words, the ULTIMATE JACKPOT.

St. Thomas' was a charitable hospital for poor patients who were otherwise unable to afford medical treatment. St Thomas' admitted male and female adult patients and some children; patients of all ages could be found on the wards together, but the hospital was very strict about separating patients by gender.

The Old Operating Theatre of 1822 was used for the treatment of female patients only. Male patients had their own separate theatre further to the East (now demolished). Rich patients usually chose to be treated and operated on at home rather than in Hospital.

As for the hospital, it was closed just prior to the widespread adoption of Joseph Lister’s antiseptic techniques. Lister was one of the first people to realize that gangrene was actually a form of decay in the human body. He realized the benefits of disinfecting wounds and surgical instruments (and washing your hands before and after surgery), and spread his message across Europe, saving thousands and revolutionizing the medical field.

Until 1847, surgeons had no recourse to anesthetics and depended on swift technique (surgeons could perform an amputation in a minute or less), the mental preparation of the patient and alcohol or opiates to dull the patient's senses. Thereafter ether or chloroform started to be used. The majority of cases were for amputations or superficial complaints as, without antiseptic conditions, it was too dangerous to carry out internal operations.

When St Thomas's Church was rebuilt in 1703 it had an unusually large Garret in the roof space. This was used by the St Thomas's Apothecary to store and cure herbs. His main offices and shop were a short distance away along St Thomas's St.

Given my love for surgical instruments, this place was truly a find beyond belief, as the Old Operating Theatre  and Herb Garret has on display a large amount of Victorian era surgical instruments on display.

I will spare you the photos of the Victorian gynecological instruments, no need to thank me ladies...


Yes, you read correctly, that is a tonsil guillotine 

I have to say that the gift shop was almost as cool as the museum itself, as it had a rare collection of fascinating autopsy photography and surgical history books, and books about the body snatcher era, as these stolen bodies would have been delivered secretly after dark to this very hospital for medical research. 

There was also tons of fun merchandise. ^_^


For more information:
The Old Operating Theatre, Museum and Herb Garret
9a St Thomas St, Southwark, London SE1 9RY
Tel: 0207 1882679

3 comentarios:

  1. I will definitely have to go here if I'm ever in cool! cute photo of you too!

  2. You really should have added the gynecological stuff- they're no more gruesome as some of the other stuff on this site, and as a former midwifery student, I would find them interesting!

  3. I disagree, thank you! from the bottom of my uterus....