History of the Collection

The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret has an exciting collection of medical objects, images, books and archives spanning the 17th Century up to the early 20th Century.

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The Museum itself is housed in an original part of the authentic architecture of old St Thomas’ Hospital, within St Thomas’ Church, Southwark, London, opened in 1703.  The medical displays presented within the two main rooms of the old hospital architecture includes: surgical and pharmaceutical objects, hospital furniture, a small collection of human pathology specimens and a small image collection.

The collection was originally donated by various representatives of the London NHS Hospitals and by private donors to Lord Russell Brock, founder of the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret. Lord Brock was a surgeon of Guy’s Hospital had gained financial assistance for the restoration of the  attic space and gathered donations and loans of medical items in order to furnish the space as a public medical museum in 1962. The original collection comprised of circa three hundred items, including 22 loaned items from the Wellcome Institute, London. In the 1970s and in 1997 Dr Michael Joseph of the old Evelina Hospital for Children (1869-c.1976 originally sited close to the museum) donated additions to the collection of a metal operating table, a set of admission books and child’s cot.

Over the years of the Museum’s existence, acquisitions to the collection have been acquired from private individuals and staff of St Thomas’ and Guy’s Hospitals. Additional objects have been purchased by the Museum in order to enhance and improve public interaction with the comprehension and chronology of the displays.  

Be inspired by some of our collection highlights here:

Surgery & Antiseptics