Surgical Scars: A Murder Mystery Evening

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Victorian Surgery Talk

Talk | Every Saturday at 2:00 PM

A surgical demonstration presented within the original architecture of the old operating theatre of St. Thomas’s Hospital of 1822.

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Museum Tour

Tour | Every Sunday at Noon

Take this museum tour to find out more about the building and what went on inside.

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Karen Howell

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection; the people that organize after-hours events...

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The Resurrection Men

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Anatomy and physiology are most important disciplines to a surgeon. By the middle of the 18th century, dissection of the dead had become central to surgical education...

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William Lowder: A Male Midwife in 18th-Century England

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​Midwifery was a developing science in the 18th century. New discoveries were being made in anatomy and physiology; new instruments were developed, and midwifery schools began to open, with courses running in the hospitals and partnerships created with lying in institutions.

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Kirsty Chilton

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Ether, Anaesthesia and the Old Operating Theatre

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​In August 2008, as part of the building works at the museum, samples of sawdust from under the operating theatre were taken by conservator Jonna Holt. Apart from other things, she found ether residue in the area of the head end of the operating table. This ether was an old fashion form, slightly different to the purified medical ether that was soon to be introduced. This shows that this new advance was made available for St. Thomas’ Hospital’s patients very soon after its introduction.

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Denise Leon

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​The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Juliana Wakefield

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​The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Julie Mathias

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Iris Millis

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

Monica

Staff Profiles: Q&A with Monica A. Walker

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

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Staff Profiles: Q&A with Gareth Miles

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The front of house staff who welcome you; the people that tell you all about the history of the museum, Victorian surgery and herbal medicine on the weekend talks; the people that take you on walking tours about public health and history of crime in Southwark; the people that catalogue and care for the collection...

Surrey Gardens

An Englishman’s Paradise

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In 1862, while the new buildings of St Thomas’ were under construction near Westminster Bridge, the hospital temporarily moved to Surrey Gardens. Now a populous area between the Kennington and Walworth Roads, the Gardens were once, according to Punch Magazine, ‘the most charming place of amusement in London’.

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The Christmas Rose as a Medicinal Plant

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​Today we know Black Hellebore (botanical name Helliborus Officinalis) as the Christmas Rose, but it also had a much older name, Christe Herb. The reason for both of these alternative names is that, in a mild winter, this plant will flower at Christmas. In past centuries it was said that it bloomed in joy at Christ’s birth.

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Gum Arabic: History and Uses

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Gum Arabic is a gummy exudation from the branches of the Acacia Senegal (L.) Willd and other species of the Leguminosae Family. It is also known as Gum Acacia, Kordofan Gum, Gum Senegal, Acacia Vera, Gummi Africanum, Gummae Mimosae, kher, Sudan Gum Arabic, Somali Gum, Yellow Thorn, Mogadore Gum, Indian Gum and Australian Gum.

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Introduction to English Witches in the Early Modern Period

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​Between 1450 and 1750 ecclesiastical and secular courts tried and executed tens of thousand of people throughout Europe for the crime of witchcraft. Witchcraft may be defined as supernatural activity, believed to be the result of power given by the Devil to cause harm to something or someone~ for instance death~ via non-physical means.

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‘Pain has an element of blank’

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​We assume that our ancestors felt pain in much the same way as we do today. But perhaps this ‘common-sense’ assumption is incorrect. The way individuals relate to the world, including their own bodies, is interpreted through culture, there is no such thing as an unmediated experience. The only way to make sense of the potentially overwhelming and chaotic nature of experiential reality is via reference to learnt, culturally specific narratives and metaphoric tropes.

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There Together Be Suspended

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​On November 13th 1849, the felonious couple Frederick and Maria Manning were publicly executed at the Horsemonger Lane Gaol, Southwark, for the murder of Patrick O’Connor – an affair that became known as the “Bermondsey Horror.”

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Victorian Attitudes Towards Self-Murder

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The corpses of those who commit suicide had long been excluded from interment in consecrated ground, rather they were buried at busy junctions in an effort to prevent malign spirits rising from the grave: it was thought that the traffic would keep any hostile force ‘down’. It was also believed that if a supernatural entity did manage to flee the burial pit it would be bewildered by the choice of potential paths offered at the crossroad. The stakes through the heart were a further prophylactic against the escape of evil, they were thought to ‘pin’ corrupt spectres to the spot.

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The Natural Ordure of Things

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It’s a fair assumption that not many of us contemplate the complex journey taken, from mouth to anus, of the food we eat. Once swallowed, the entire digestive process is involuntary and occurs without any conscious thought from the individual.

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A Museum Story

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It was Sunday morning. For the first time in a while, the sun was shining in London. As I came around the corner from London Bridge Station I looked up at the scaffolding that by now covered the tower of St. Thomas’ church. I climbed the spiral staircase and went into the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret.

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Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 1

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Spiritualism has been perceived as a new religion that arrived in England from America in the mid-nineteenth century. The central principles of the Spiritualist movement can be broadly characterized by a belief in the continuity of a life after death, coupled with the conviction that the deceased can communicate with the living through a spiritual medium.

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Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 2

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​In mid-Victorian London the early spiritualist movement was relatively small and mainly dominated by the upper circles of society. A varied grouping of middle-class intellectuals and professionals became the early advocates of spiritualism, which included physicians, professors, lawyers and writers of the day.

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Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 3

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In the dawn of modern spiritualism the general means of communication employed by the spirits were made by “raps” or “alphabet rapping”, where a medium could relay messages from the deceased by writing letters on a slate. Under more favourable conditions, the spirits were able to speak in a direct voice using of the lungs of the medium, or materialise all vocal organs for their own use

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Seeing is Believing: Spiritualism in the Victorian Era-Part 4

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The Society of Psychical Research was one of a number of organisations established in Britain in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was founded in 1882 by a group of Cambridge philosophers and scientists after a meeting of the British National Association of Spiritualists. Their aim was to investigate scientifically, without prejudice, those capabilities of man that appear to be inexplicable.

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The Humoral Management of Blood: Cupping, Bloodletting and Staunching- PART 1

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​Blood and heart health is a central aspect of the normal monitoring and maintenance of our body function. Via medical analysis we know that a unit of blood is taken to be approximately one pint; that an average adult male can be estimated to have within their body about twelve pints of blood, a female nine pints; a healthy donor's blood has been analysed to replenish in about 24 hours, that red blood cells that are lost take longer and are totally replaced in a few weeks. Whole blood can be donated every eight weeks and we are aware that blood types must be matched in order to safely transfuse blood. Our blood is accepted as the body’s replenishing life force.

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The Humoral Management of Blood: Cupping, Bloodletting and Staunching- PART 3

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In 1853 within the Lancet* St Thomas’ trained surgeon Thomas Wakley (1795-1862) wrote a substantial obituary of Monson Hills Senior (1792-1853) the long serving Cupper to Guy’s Hospital: “In March, 1823, he was appointed surgery-man in Guy's Hospital, and after six months, having in this interval qualified himself by assiduity and dexterity, he was advanced to the situation of cupper...

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Review: Quacks and Anaesthesia

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Set in a time of change for medicine, Quacks also embraces the introduction of pain relief. Quacks is treating anaesthesia for effect, but there are also kernels of historic truth in this comedy.

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Polyps: A Real Life Hydra in Miniature

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Previously, I wrote a blog about the reintroduction of Rhinoplasty to European surgery in the early 19th century by Joseph Constantine Carpue. The idea of transplanting tissue had been neglected for such a long time in Europe, and I wanted to try to explore why that might be in that blog, as well as discuss Carpue’s achievement. However, while I was researching it, I came across many interesting tangents about transplantation and ideas about regeneration in history. Due to space, I didn’t elaborate then, but I wanted to come back to some of the subjects I touched on and give them their own space – the subjects of this blog, polyps, are one of those tangents.

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Precious Objects as Materia Medica

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In the Secrets of Maister Alexis, translated into English by William Warde in 1558 we find on folio 69 (recto) a recipe for a distilled water which "is very good to make white and to beautifie the flesh, and to take away the wrinckles of the face". It concludes with the confident words “A thinge proved”.

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The Black Poppy

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For centuries cottage gardens included Red Poppies. They were undoubtedly grown for their beauty but this meant that they would also be on-hand for the making of domestic remedies. Hill’s Herbal gives one example. A syrup could be made by pouring boiling water onto the plucked flowers, just as much as will wet them.

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Days of the Dead – A Theatrical Mind-Reading Performance

Special Event | 16 February, 2018 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Halloween, Samhain, Dia de los Muertos – there are few cultures that have not, at one time or another, celebrated, honoured and propitiated their dead at certain moments in the year. Outside of any specific date, many of these cultures have also engaged in regular communion with the departed, alluding to a somewhat more nuanced perspective on the nature of life and death.

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Let's Talk About Death: A Morning Discussion

Event | 21 January, 2018, 10:00 AM

​All human beings are born with the certainty that they are going to die, and yet nobody wants to talk about it. Now that we have extended our life span to almost 100, we live in constant denial of our own mortality. This was not always the case...

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Film Night: The Unknown (1927)

Film night | 25 January, 2018, 7:00 PM

​In one of the most offbeat psychological dramas ever produced by a major film studio, Lon Chaney plays Alonzo The Armless Wonder, who performs amazing feats with his feet. He's not really armless, but has his upper limbs strapped to his sides to hide a peculiar anatomical deformity from the police. He falls in love with a young gypsy girl (Joan Crawford) who cannot stand men's hands and seeks to possess her at any cost.

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Film Night: Freaks (1932)

Film night | 14 February, 2018, 7:00 PM

​"Anyone who considers this entertainment should be placed in the pathological ward in some hospital" said one contemporary review of this notorious film. The initial outrage over the use of people with genuine abnormalities overshadowed the film's real sympathies; if there are 'freaks' on display here, they are not the versatile circus performers to whom the title seems to allude.

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“Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?": Murdering Mothers in Victorian London

Talk | 1 March, 2018, 7:00 PM

Infanticide, the act of killing a baby or a very young child, remains an intensely complex and emotive subject. In Victorian London, the number of predominantly poor, unmarried women accused of murdering their babies dramatically increased. In light of this, public opinion varied towards mothers charged with murder. This talk will discuss Nineteenth Century ‘popular’ (often conflicting) attitudes towards infanticide, by examining the transcripts of court cases tried at London’s Central Criminal Court.

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SKERRYVORE: A Tale of Terror

Special Event | 6, 7, 8 March, 2018, 7:00 PM

​On 23rd December 1876, tragedy befell the lighthouse on the island of Skerryvore. The three crewmen vanished, leaving a meal on the table and a fire in the grate. Only Mary was left. A little girl with nowhere to go. A witness without a memory. But tonight, via the miracle of mesmerism, Professor Barrett will return Mary to the eye of the storm. At last, she will tell all she knows about the tragedy at Skerryvore, finding redemption in the process. That is, if everything goes to plan…

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Film Night: Gates of Heaven (1978)

Film night | 15 March, 2018, 7:00 PM

​A documentary which still remains in a category by itself; Gates of Heaven focuses on an assortment of people involved in the pet cemetery business and the grieving owners who simply want to give the animals they love a proper send-off. For a film supposedly about dead pets, this is a moving reflection of human nature which combines comedy, irony and pathos. The characterful subjects are allowed to speak for themselves, musing on the need for companionship, what it means to be alive and why we work so hard to be remembered in death.

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Dealing with the Dead: Sentiment versus Efficiency

Talk | 10 April, 2018, 7:00 PM

​How a society views death and how it deals with the practical problem of what to do with its dead is very revealing. There are always Philosophical and attitudinal issues around disposal of the dead, but at least as important are the practical matters relating to Public Health and Finance.

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Death, Dissection & the Destitute: a Political History of the Human Corpse

Talk | 26 April, 2018, 7:00 PM

​Before 1832 dissection was a feared and hated punishment for murder. The 1832 Anatomy Act requisitioned instead the corpses of the poor, transferring the penalty from murder to poverty. The Anatomy Act contributed to the terrible fear of the Victorian workhouse and influences attitudes towards death even today. This talk by author Ruth Richardson analyses the subject drawing on many disciplines to explore the fundamental issues of folklore and science, life and death and the political struggles surrounding ownership of the body in the 19th century.

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Medicine Through Time Boot Camp: Top Tips for GCSE Exam Preparation

Workshop | 22 April, 2018, 9:45 AM - 2:00 PM

​We are delighted to announce that in April 2018 the Museum’s learning team will be running an intensive revision workshop for Key Stage 4 students studying the Medicine Through Time GCSE History series. This 4-hour session will cover the key themes of the current Edexcel: Medicine through time, c1250-present, but will also be useful for those studying AQA: Health and the People.

Half Term Workshops

February Half Term Workshops

Workshop | 14 & 15 February, 2018, 2:00 PM - 3:00 PM

Join us for these fun family friendly activities at the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret! We are organizing a Valentine's Day Mending Heart Workshop and a Crime, Clues and Maggots Workshop!

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Surgical Scars: A Murder Mystery Evening

Special Event | 13 March, 2018, 6:30 PM

Death comes to the Operating Theatre of St. Thomas' Hospital, except that this time it is not a patient's body lying there on this windy night. Everything points out to foul play and we are relying on you to help us find the killer! Step back in time and join us for an evening of suspicion, detection and mysterious motives in the eerie surroundings of this Victorian operating theatre.

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Drop-In Art Sessions

Workshop | Every Tuesday and Thursday, 10:30 AM - 5:00 PM

The museum welcomes individual artists in our drop-in art sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays during opening times.

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Visiting us

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The Museum is located in central London, in the historic Borough of Southwark, on the same street as the Shard, just south of London Bridge.

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History

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The Operating Theatre (operating or emergency room) is found in the attic of an English Baroque Church dated to the 18th century.

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Venue hire

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The Museum is a great place for a reception or book launch. It is very atmospheric, which makes it a very special place.

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