St Thomas's Hospital, one of the oldest in Britain, was founded here in the 12th century. When the hospital was moved further west to Lambeth in 1871 most of the buildings on the site were demolished to make way for the railway.
The Old Operating Theatre, the women's operating theatre, survived because it was located away from the main buildings in a garret over the hospital church. This building became the Chapter House of Southwark Cathedral and the operating theatre lay bricked over and forgotten until the 1950s.
As the only surviving 19th century operating theatre in the country it offers a insight into the fearsome medical practices of the day.
Restored to its original condition, the operating theatre is as it was before the discovery of anaesthetics or antiseptics. Only the poor would be operated upon here, the rich would be treated at home on the kitchen table. At the time, the lack of knowledge about the spread of infection meant that 30% of their patients died within three days of an operation.
Today, you have to climb a narrow flight of steps to visit the belfry, and in an adjoining room the ancient banks of viewing stands are in semicircles around a wooden bed. The display shows how patients were blindfolded, gagged and bound to the operating table, and the box of sawdust underneath was used to sop up the blood.
The adjacent Herb Garret has displays showing the history of surgery and herbal medicine. One of the most important members of the hospital, the Apothecary, would use herbs from the hospital's garden or buy them in from outside.
There are also exhibits recording the history of nursing at Guy's and St Thomas's hospitals, both famous hospitals.