Groups & Schools

Groups & Schools at the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret

physiciansOur education sessions are aimed at all ages and abilities, including SEN groups, schools and colleges. We also offer an extensive provision for anyone with a general interest in the social history of medicine and related subjects.


Primary Schools

The Victorian A & E HospitalA & E image






The workshop explores what it was like to be a patient in St Thomas’ Hospital during the 19th century. This is an interactive session where participants make their own herbal remedies to treat a range of ailments. In addition to exploring the role of the apothecary, the group will look into the ‘bloody’ world of surgery before the advent of antiseptics and anaesthetics. The session will conclude with a mock amputation procedure in the unique atmosphere of the Operating Theatre. Maximum group size: 30 students.

Secondary Schools

Victorian Surgery Brought to Life

Museum staff reconstruct the atmosphere of an operation in the time before the discovery of anaesthesia and antiseptic surgery. This session is excellent for those studying the ‘Medicine Through Time’ curriculum (KS4/5). It is also a fantastic enrichment activity for groups investigating broader elements of science, art and social history. Maximum group size: 40 students.

Further Education

The Foundations of Contemporary Attitudes Towards Health, Illness, and the Body

This session stimulates discussion around the extent to which categories such as ‘pain’ change over time. Medicine and surgery prior to the revolutionary discoveries of anaesthetics and antiseptics will be explored using a range of learning activities. The programme is particularly beneficial for learners studying BTEC Diplomas in Health and Social Care and Access to Higher Education Diplomas in Health, Nursing and Midwifery. Maximum group size: 50 students.

From Garden to Garret: The Apothecary Tour

20160531_154749This tour meets at the herb garden of St George the Martyr, Southwark where the curator and Herb Archivist Karen Howell takes a tour of the herbs that were once used by old St Thomas’ and Guy’s Hospitals to make patients’ medicines.

Including tales of the fascinating plant folklore, mythology and the scientific properties and oils of the living plants the tour is of the garden site that contains the gate of the old Marshalsea Prison.

This guided walk around the St George’s Garden returns back into the Herb Garret to include a mini herbal workshop that provides hands-on dried herbs, and presents simple medicine making methods such as used to make rose water, pills and poultices.

The event provides a hands on opportunity for keen gardeners and historians to investigate the history of and discover some of the intriguing traditional pharmaceutical materials used at the old London hospitals.

To make a reservation you can call us at +44 02071882679, e-mail us at Minimum group size: 10 people. 

Guided Walks

The Museum offers a range of guided local historical walks that can be booked separately or to complement a talk or visit to the Museum. A package of talk and walk is advised for groups over 40 people.

choleraKing Cholera Walk: Public Health in Nineteenth Century Southwark

This walk covers the transformation of public health provision during the second half of the 19th century. Southwark was hugely affected by cholera and the second outbreak in 1848 came to be known as the ‘Southwark Slaughter.’ It explains how cholera spread to England, the appalling symptoms of the disease and the contributions of key figures such as: Dr John Snow; social reformer Edwin Chadwick; statistician William Farr and engineer Joseph Bazalgette.

The Bodysnatchers’ Haunts

This walk covers some of the secretive locations of the ‘Bodysnatchers’ haunts. Learn about the anatomist’s need for corpses and the ritual of burial in 19th century London. Not recommended for anyone under the age of 18. Max. group size: 20 people.

An Earthly Hell: A Walk Through Southwark’s Criminal Past

Improper amenities and lax law enforcement set Southwark’s reputation as a haunt of criminals and low-life for half a millennium. Prisons, prostitution, murder and debt, the unsavory status of this old suburb south of the river Thames will all be revealed. Of interest to anyone wishing to learn more about the history of crime. It can also be tailored to suite KS4/5 History: Crime and Punishment.

Juliana Wakefield at Southwark Cathedral’s Herb Garden.

From Garret to Garden

This walk begins in our Herb Garret where the public will learn about the work of the apothecary. Afterwards, the walk will take you to the Herb Garden in nearby Southwark Cathedral, pausing to look at reminders of unusual medical ingredients from our past which we will see along the way.

Whilst not intended to be an exact recreation, the Cathedral’s Herb Garden reflects the layout of a traditional monastic garden and was designed with advice from Juliana Wakefield, an Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret officer. Once there, a talk will be delivered explaining the historical uses of the plants growing in the garden many of which survive in herbalism today.

You can book this walk in combination with any of our other talks, but it goes better with the Victorian A&E Hospital talk. Max. group size: 20 people.


The talks or the walks are covered with museum admission: £3.50, under 16; £5.00 concs.; £6.50, adults. Combined talk and walk: £8.50, under 18; £9, concs.; £10.50, adults. The talks and walks are only available to groups and must be paid in advance.

Important Notes

-There is no additional charge when booking a lecture. Bookings can be cancelled up to a week prior to the visit. There will be a £50 cancellation fee if the group does not cancel within the allotted time.

-Due to limited capacity, please respect your time slot as museum staff may not be able to provide the lecture or walk due to other bookings.

-We can only accept a maximum of 55 people into the museum at any one time, including teaching staff. This is due to fire safety regulations.

-Educational lectures are open to all museum visitors; therefore no groups have exclusive access to the Museum. The public are free to quietly join the lecture but asked not to participate in the activity.

-At present the museum has no toilets on site.