A surprising location for The Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret, Southwark, London

Read about my visit to Southwark and a trip back in time to the Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garret, housed in a surprising London location.

October 2016. I had a rare trip up to London on my own, meeting up with my aunt and uncle in St. Thomas’ Street, Southwark.  I took the tube direct from Euston to London Bridge station and took the exit on to St Thomas’ Street. You come out right underneath the Shard.  It’s one of the best place to take a photograph straight up from the corner.

The Shard

Turn right and after just over 100 yards walk, you see a small church on your right. Rebuilt in the 1600’s, the church is part of the original footprint of St Thomas’ Hospital.  It reopened in 1703 and holds a special secret in its attic.

St. Thomas's Church SE1
St. Thomas’s Church SE1. Used with permission ©SE1.

Enter into the doorway under the tower and you find a little door in the left hand corner.  Go through and walk up the 32 wooden steps in the spiral staircase and find the entrance to the Herb Garret of St Thomas’ Hospital.
You find a small shop and ticket office with a blocked up window displaying information about the site and the fact that the operating theatre predates Lister.

You’ve got some more steps to climb and then you enter the attic space and suddenly everything changes! You’ve gone back in time by 200 years.

The Herb Garret.

Suddenly you are back in the 1800’s or before, when surgery was rudimentary and herbal medicine and the Apothecary were the norm.

There are orange and blue glass bottles, herbal medicine, gory looking surgical instruments, some pathology items and more, pill making equipment and  apothecary items too.Once of the more unusual finds is the infamous Snailwater recipe from Dr Mead.

Snailwater recipe

On the opposite side of the garrett to the entrance, there is another doorway. Go through here and suddenly you have advanced 100 or so years.

The Old Operating Theatre
The Old Operating Theatre

This part of the Garret was given up for the Ladies Operating Theatre to be constructed next to the ward.  The reconstructed theatre is complete with table and auditorium with the students watching from the stands, learning from the surgeons while they operated.  There is also a box of sawdust under the operating table, necessary to cover the floor and soak up all the blood!

In 1862 St Thomas’ Hospital moved from the ancient Southwark site, making way for the new Railway.  The operating theatre and garret were stripped and sealed up, laying hidden and undiscovered for 94 years. Thankfully they were rediscovered in 1956, restored, and opened as a museum six years later with loads of interesting artefacts.  Add in plenty of herbal medicine too, pill making equipment, apothecary scales and surgical equipment, medicines, all sorts of things and it’s an absolutely fabulous place to spend an hour or so.

Further information:

http://oldoperatingtheatre.com

For more information on eateries etc check out http://www.london-se1.co.uk/places/old-operating-theatre Scroll down to the bottom of the article.

St Thomas’s Church photo used with permission ©SE1.

All other photos ©Travels With Flip Flops and Walking Boots and may not be used without permission.

Continue Reading

Puffins and Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire

June 2016.  Last summer, we stayed in north Pembrokeshire near Fishguard, a beautiful area and we quite fell in love with it. The hills, grass pastures, the Preseli Mountains and beautiful coast walks on the Pembrokeshire Coast overlooking the blue/green sea.  You stand a good chance of seeing porpoises, seals and dolphins while walking on the coast paths.  We discovered that the best time to visit Skomer Island is in June and July when the puffins are breeding. So we put it in our diaries to visit during a gap in the GCSE exams this summer.

Continue Reading

Studland, Old Harry Rocks, Ballard Down

April 2016, We are beginning to explore Purbeck now the better weather has arrived.   We drop off one of our sons at a local South Coast university and duty done, we drive over to Studland via the wonderful Chain Ferry.

On the drive down from the Midlands, we noticed that the further south we drove, the more yellow gorse we saw.  It always brings back memories of childhood holidays by the sea.  Once off the ferry, the gorse was abundantly yellow everywhere.

Continue Reading

Castle Bolton and Aysgarth Falls, Wensleydale.

March 2016. Loving Yorkshire and after an emotional 4 months with my Father-in-Laws declining heath and passing, Hubby and I decided on a day out to recharge our batteries in our favourite area of Wensleydale.  We dragged along our Teenage Student too for the fresh air, because he likes the area as much as we do.

As often happens in our home, we left late.  Although ‘Ethel’ our trusty phone satnav said that our chosen route was clear, we had delays.  Our plan for an easy 3 hour drive, arriving at lunchtime in the pretty village of Carperby wasn’t to be.  Scuppered by the M1/A1 delays, we changed plans and arrived at Castle Bolton in Wensleydale at 2.30pm.

We planned a 6 mile walk, taking in Bolton Castle, its pretty little dales village and the stunning waterfalls at Aysgarth and back via Carperby, walking back to the castle across Bolton Moor.

Continue Reading