Wooden Operating Theatre, with galleries. Accidentally discovered in mid-1950s.
Wooden Operating Theatre, with galleries. Accidentally discovered in mid-1950s.

I thought I’d duck today to see something different.  I had planned to see both the Old Operating Theatre and Clink Prison Museum in London Bridge, but on arrival, discovered that Clink Prison Museum was closed for renovations.  After getting my bearings from the London Bridge Tube station, I made my way to the Old Operating Theatre Museum, walking past Guy Hospital (I think that’s what it’s called).  This is a very old part of London, and has had a hospital in this area since the 12th century.  In early 19th century, much of the old buildings were demolised and a new hospital built not far from where the Museum is.

The curious thing about this Museum is that it is an operating theatre in the roof cavity of the old church.  You have to enter a very narrow doorway and then climb a narrow spiral wooden staircase about a body’s width.  When they demolished the old hospital, they blocked this area up and it was totally forgotten until rediscovered during renovations in the 1950s.

The Museum houses old archaic medical instruments. Some were curious to me, some unrecognisable.  Forcepts looked about the same to me.  Some things don’t change very much.  Hygiene standards on the other hand is a completely different story….  Did you know, they never used to change bedsheets, and several patients would share one bed.  Also, they never opened the windows, so the air was always stale.  All because it was cold, and they just did not have the manpower or the technology to do regular washing.  All beds were wooden.  Then came the Industrial Revolution and steam power and things were different.

Another interesting fact was that children were never cared for at all during this time.  Over 26,000 children died in London every year, but only 7 beds were allocated to children in the whole country.  A reflection of the harsh living conditions.

I have photos of the operating theatre.  You will note that everything was wooden then.  There was a sawdust box at the bottom of the operating table.  The table would be covered by a blanket, and then a big brown oil cloth placed over it and the patient on top.  The saw dust box was kicked around under the table by the surgeon to soak up blood which would be dripping down in rivets.  Behind, are galleries where students would watch the operation.

I did not know that John Keats, the poet, started off life as a surgeon apprentice.  Apparently he was not very good at all.

The Old Operating Theatre was quite interesting.  Better if you have a keen interest in medical history.  I just have an interest in the slightly macabre.  Museum took about an hour, and cost $5.60 pounds.  (I really do need to find the pound sign on my computer!)

After that, I wandered around London Bridge, but not too far as I am still on a school run.  I checked out a couple of really old inns/pubs eg. George Inn, the Borough Markets (not opened except for a few stalls), and Soutwark Cathedral.  I think the Borough Markets looks interesting, and they had some cute cafes and eating places around.  Would be great on a Saturday.  I sat outside Southwark Cathedral for lunch.   Peeped through the doors, looks great inside, but as I’d now seen quite a few cathedrals, I decided to give the $4 pound donation a miss.