William Herschel Museum

Coordinates: 51°22′57″N 2°22′00″W / 51.3825°N 2.3667°W / 51.3825; -2.3667

The Herschel Museum of Astronomy is a small independent museum dedicated to the life and works of the famous astronomer, William Herschel and his sister, Caroline Herschel. Both made significant contributions to the field of astronomy and both were talented musicians.


The museum is situated in the Herschels' former home at 19 New King Street in Bath, England, which has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building. It was here that William manufactured telescopes and made his most famous discovery, the planet Uranus in 1781, using a telescope of his own design. William's household included his sister Caroline, who assisted him with his observations and herself discovered a number of comets.

“William Herschel was the first man to give a reasonably correct picture of the shape of our star-system or galaxy; he was the best telescope-maker of his time, and possibly the greatest observer who ever lived”. Patrick Moore, astronomer.

The museum

The museum is a small but historically accurate Georgian house in a quiet side-street in Bath, with excellent visitor facilities, aural history guides and a small shop. The museum is situated over three floors of the house (the upper two floors are privately occupied) and includes the garden that has been restored in the style of an eighteenth century town garden. A virtual tour on the ground floor (designed specifically with wheelchair users in mind) takes visitors on a step by step journey around the house. Many astronomical and musical artifacts are on display, including a replica of a telescope similar to that with which Herschel discovered Uranus, and a full scale reproduction of a lamp micrometer. This was a typical Herschel invention that consists of a disc with moving arms, a couple of oil burning lamps and some string. With such simple components, Herschel was able to measure the distance between stars and galaxies with almost one hundred per cent accuracy. The vaults at garden level have been equipped as a tiny cinema showing a film of the Herschels' lives and discoveries. Herschel's workshop with original furnace and many tools is accessible to visitors who can handle some of the equipment. The Caroline Lucretia Gallery opened in 2011. Privately funded this new gallery provides a modern space for temporary exhibitions and leads from the workshop into the garden.

The museum's patron is Sir Patrick Moore, astronomer.

The museum's opening times vary throughout the year. Further details can be found at the museum's page on the website of the Bath Preservation Trust.

The house

19 New King Street is not a grand house, but represents a middle grade Georgian town house, typical of the homes of artisans and tradesmen of the city of Bath in the 18th and 19th centuries. Part of a terrace built around 1764, it is laid out over five floors with two reception rooms on the ground and first floors and a basement with kitchen, parlour and workshop. The Herschels moved into 19 New King Street in 1777 and lived there for two separate periods (1777 to 1779 and 1781 to 1784). William Herschel left Bath in 1782 to move closer to Windsor in Berkshire to carry out his duties as astronomer to King George III. Caroline Herschel remained at 19 New King Street with their brother Alexander until 1784. The subsequent tenant was Fanny Burney's sister with her entourage.


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Building Activity

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