19 New King Street is where William Herschel discovered the planet Uranus in March 1781. In doing so, he doubled the size of the known universe. What makes this achievement even more remarkable is that Herschel was a self-taught amateur astronomer, who built his own telescopes at home.
Number 19 forms part of a terrace built around 1764. When the Herschels moved here for the first time in 1777, the bustling street was filled with the noise and mess of builders and the road was still un-metalled. The modest townhouse (laid out over five floors) is typical of the houses of ‘the middling sort’ – that is, artisans and tradesmen. It is a contrast to the grand Georgian houses rented by visitors for the Bath season – such as No.1 The Royal Crescent (another historic house museum which, like the Herschel Museum of Astronomy, is run by the Bath Preservation Trust).
The Grade II* listed building was purchased with the help of Doctors Leslie and Elizabeth Hilliard in 1981. The house has been fully restored in the authentic style of the period. Dr Brian May is the Museum’s patron – like William Herschel before him, both a musician and an astronomer.