Florence Nightingale’s Reluctant Life in Portraiture

Join Natasha McEnroe, director of the Florence Nightingale Museum and the Old Operating Theatre Museum and Herb Garret for a unique talk about Florence Nightingale’s Reluctant Life in Portraiture.

Florence Nightingale disliked having her portrait taken as much as she hated being a celebrity, yet it was largely through the visual representations of her face and person in the press that she gained iconic status in Victorian England. Used as a model by her artistic and adoring sister and cousin, sketches of the young Nightingale contrast sharply with the photographs and paintings of her later years, when the pressures of her work and ill health are very apparent. Representations of the idealised Angel of the Crimea tell as much about attitudes of her time as they do about the reality of her life. Natasha McEnroe will examine Nightingale’s life through a selection of images of her, and will consider whether they can shed some light on the controversy around the mysterious illness of her later years.

January 31st 2017 | Doors will open at 6:30pm | Price £8 adults, £6 concessions.

To make a reservation you can call 0207 188 2679, use the e-mail below , or get your tickets through Eventbrite.

  Click here send email to oldoperatingtheatre@gmail.com

  Eventbrite Tickets available here

The Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge

The Old Operating Theatre in London Bridge

The Operating Theatre

The Operating Theatre (operating or emergency room) is found in the attic of an English Baroque Church dated to the 18th century. At first glance this placement seems bizarre, but the wards of the South Wing of St. Thomas’ Hospital were built around St. Thomas’ Church.

Dorcas was the women’s surgical ward. Before 1822, the women were operated on in the ward – this must have caused some considerable distress.

In 1815 the Apothecary’s Act, which required apprentice apothecaries to attend at public hospitals, meant that hordes of students poured in to watch operations.

Placing the Theatre in the Herb Garret of the Church provided a separation from the ward. It gave a separate entrance for students, and afforded a measure of sound proofing. It was also approximately at the same level as the women’s surgical ward which aided the transport of patients to the theatre. The operating theatre was purposely built to maximise the light from above, with a large skylight. Although not heated or ventilated, it provided an ideal, albeit small, area for demonstrating surgical skills.

Until 1846, surgeons had no recourse to anaesthetics and depended on swift technique (surgeons could perform an amputation in a minute or less), the mental preparation of the patient and alcohol or opiates to dull the patient’s senses. Thereafter ether or chloroform started to be used. The Operating Theatre had closed down before antiseptic surgery was invented. The majority of cases were for amputations or superficial complaints as, without antiseptic conditions, it was too dangerous to carry out internal operations.



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