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Creative Bath: discovering a planet

The stone townhouse is humble by the standards of the grand English city of Bath.

Yet, despite its unpretentious appearance, 19 New King Street is a memorable destination for travellers visiting Bath, a city that certainly isn’t short of attractions.

Another gem off the tourist trail

The five-level Georgian house is a museum with a difference – dedicated neither to Bath’s well known Roman era, nor its stylish years as a fashionable meeting place.

Instead, the museum celebrates the life and work of one of the world’s most famous astronomers, William Herschel.

If that sounds a little dry, believe me that a visit to the museum is a fascinating experience – one of the many wonderful but lesser known gems located off the UK’s traditional tourist trails.

Not your usual townhouseSAM_0353

While millions of travellers flock to the springs from which Bath takes its name, it’s certainly worth finding  your way to the New King Street townhouse from where William Herschel discovered the planet now known as Uranus.

Born in Hanover, Germany, Herschel moved to Bath in 1766 where he was a prominent professional musician and teacher.

He developed  an interest in astronomy as a way of relaxing and was soon building his own telescopes with the aid of his sister and brother.

The townhouse and sheds at Bath  became a series of workshops for grinding glass, turning wooden telescope frames and making lenses.

P1010823There was a furnace and smelting oven; a mirror polishing machine; and glass-making moulds created from horse dung.

Finding a seventh planet

Here, in March of 1781, William Herschel discovered a seventh planet from the sun – to be called Uranus – while using a telescope in his back garden.

The discovery gave Herschel instant fame because it effectively doubled the known size of the solar system.

He was made astronomer to the Court of King George 111; was given an award by the Royal Society; addressed the French emperor, Napoleon; and went on to discover Infrared radiation.

Then, in 1811, Herschel and his sister gained additional fame as comet hunters when they observed the appearance of the comet, Flaugergues.

Herschel died in 1822 and the museum at Bath  opened in 1981.

Where is it?

The Herschel  Museum of Astronomy is situated at Bath, in Somerset, UK.

See how to get to the museum; admission prices; and details of special attractions and events.

Bath is located about one-and-a-half hours from London by train. See times and fares. Road travel between the two cities usually takes just over two hours.

About Ian Roberts (266 Articles)
Ian Roberts is a veteran Australian journalist, PR man and writer/reviewer on accommodation and travel. Over many decades, Ian has travelled widely reporting and recording his experiences. His newsy columns - including Memorable Destination - have gained a big following among people seeking suggestions and objective information about accommodation, travel and destinations world-wide. Along with wife, Sue and her camera, Ian has taken up a particular challenge to help budget conscious seniors 50 and upward with travel and accommodation ideas - including suggestions for holding family reunions. Readers in Ian's home city of Newcastle Australia may also be aware of his travel and accommodation column in a local newspaper.

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