Blake’s Lock is situated on the Kennet and Avon Canal, virtually in the centre of Reading. There are more than 100 locks on the Kennet & Avon Canal, and apart from Blake’s Lock, all are under the jurisdiction of British Waterways.
Uniquely, Blake’s Lock is the only one that, although controlled by the Environment Agency, is not on the River Thames.
Blake’s was originally a flash lock, and once owned by the then Kennet & Avon Company. It was converted to a timber-constructed pound lock in 1802 to improve navigation from the Thames into the River Kennet enabling boats to travel all the way to the Bristol area. The lock retains its original manual beams, so far avoiding the progress towards hydraulic power.
As the countryside changes as one travels downstream, so does the wildlife. Here at Blake’s Lock you will see a great variety of birds including blue tits, finches, wren, jacksaws, geese, ducks and a heron which can be spotted now and again perched on the lock house.
From The Riverside Museum near Blake’s Lock is a good view of Reading Prison, where the last public execution took place in 1862. Reading Prison was made famous when Oscar Wilde was interned here, inspiring his great poem, The Ballad of Reading Gaol.
The museum contains a genuine gypsy caravan, medieval mill wheel, preserved turbine machinery and more. Part of the museum building has been converted into a large riverside pub/restaurant.