The Apothecary in the Attic & the Herbal Woman: Tales from the Herb Garret of the Old St Thomas' Hospital
Come and join us for a stimulating talk with Dr Monica Walker as she uncovers the hidden histories of The Herb Garret.
The rediscovery of the oldest operating theatre in Europe, dating back to 1822, is an exciting and rather well known story. But less attention has been paid to what else had been tucked away in the attic of St Thomas’ Church prior to its establishment.
Hooks, ropes and nail holes in the roof; dried “opium” poppyheads and archaeological historical records revealing the existence of an “herb garret” - used by the apothecary of the Old St Thomas’ Hospital to store, dry and cure herbs. Among the famous records is the tale of the herbal woman who regularly visited the hospital to sell her goods and share her medical theories.
These stories highlight the significance of both the building and the practices that developed as a result of the architecture and atmosphere of the Church.
Dr. Monica Walker
Dr. Monica Walker is the Engagement Manager at the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret. The focus of her research in these past years have been connected with the history of medicine as part of the Old St Thomas' Hospital in its original site in Southward. The history of the Herb Garret will be the focus of their events programme, as they celebrate the 320th anniversary, throughout 2023.
The History of The Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret
When the great re-development of Old St Thomas' Hospital was completed in 1703, a new space was introduced above the hospital's church: a garret. The church had been built by Thomas Cartwright who created this space at the request of the hospital. The garret, an old word for attic, was meant to be used as a space to store the hospital's surplus. Nevertheless, the historical and archaeological records indicate that soon after its completion, the apothecaries of Old St Thomas' Hospital requested the use of the space to dry and cure herbs and to store medicines. The garret's environment was ideal for these tasks, as it was dark, dry and away from vermin. It was also fortunate that the apothecary's workshop was nearby, as was the hospital's herbal garden. The garret was used for over a hundred years by the apothecaries before the space was transformed in 1822 into an operating theatre for the women's wards of the hospital and a post-op ward.
The Apothecary in the Attic & the Herbal Woman: Tales from the Herb Garret of the Old St Thomas' Hospital, links to our Women’s Weeds installation and marks Museum of the Home’s association with the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret.
Join us before the talk for a Pomander making workshop, hosted by the Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret.
Free, 1pm to 5pm
Saturday 19 August 2023
Museum of the Home