As early as 1708 a Bill to make the River Kennet navigable from Reading to Newbury was introduced into Parliament.
This Kennet Navigation Bill was firmly supported by Hungerford and several Wiltshire towns which would benefit from cheaper rates of goods
transport, including Westbury, Trowbridge and Bradford-on-Avon. There was considerable opposition from Reading, whose tradesmen feared loss of custom when people no longer had
to travel to their town to buy and sell.
Despite these protests, however, the Kennet Navigation Bill received Royal Assent on 21st September 1715.
Initially a poor engineer was appointed, who simply installed locks near existing mill dams. There was no shortening of the sometimes meandering route of the
existing river Kennet.
When John Hore was appointed as surveyor, he made significant improvements - shortening the route to 18½ miles byt creating several artificial channels, and
installing 20 turf locks. (The only remaining turf-sided lock is Garston lock, shown above). John Hore was responsible for the large basin at Newbury.
The Kennet Navigation was eventually fully open to traffic on 1 Jun 1723 - although the horse-towing path was not completed until
the following year, May 1724. The total cost was £84,000, of which the tow-path cost £35,000.
The main trade between Reading and Newbury was meal, flour, cheese, coal, deals, iron, groceries and heavy goods.
80 ton barges were used, but shoals often meant off-loading goods onto "lightening" boats (or