Quietly lingering in the shadows of Europe’s tallest building, the Herb Garret in the attic of St Thomas’s Church near London Bridge stored the dried flowers and plants used for medicine before the days of packages of paracetamol.
The Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret has to be one of London’s most London-y places: Blink and you’ll miss it.
Look the other way as you walk past, and you might not see the only telltale sign that this old church isn’t just another building.
Climb the stairs and enter a haven for museum nerds. The timber-lined attic feels strangely homely, like the well-stocked kitchen of your crazy aunt, piled from floor to ceiling with scribbled-on bottles in ancient cursive and spices galore (and the occasional skeleton).
Fortunately, this version is labelled, so you’ll know what you find.
London Thing 841 of 1000: ‘The old operating theatre & herb garret is magic —and strange. you go up a secret winding staircase at the side of st thomas’s church all the way to the attic, and you’re swept back a hundred years.’
Plants have been for medicine since the beginning of human time, but we don’t have much evidence of what particular herbs and remedies were stored in this attic. Four poppies were found in the rafters when this space was rediscovered and restored in 1956, but the mix of herbs on display here today comes from the archives of the apothecary.
This museum is also perfect for designophiles who get their kicks out of the beautiful old fonts, script and packaging of these cure-alls.
After you’ve stopped to smell the roses, head up a few more stairs to the Old Operating Theatre, which I wrote about in a different post.
Visit: Old Operating Theatre Museum & Herb Garret, 9a St. Thomas’s St. London SE1 9RY. Tube London Bridge. Entrance fee £6.50.
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