John Rennie's original plan for the Kennet & Avon Canal included a long summit pound with a 2.5 mile (4km) tunnel. When a second opinion was sought, it was proposed that extra locks and a shorter summit should be used. This was the option selected but, unfortunately, there was no water supply at that level so the pumping station was constructed in 1807 to lift water to the new level some 40ft (12.2m) above.
The original pumping engine of 1809 was a Boulton & Watt 'lift pump'. This was added to with a second Boulton & Watt pump in 1812. In 1846, Harvey's of Hayle replaced the original (1809) engine with a Sims Combined Cylinders 'force pump'.
Initially, water was supplied by the Wilton natural springs and lifted to a feeder leat which took it to the main canal channel on the summit pound. With increased usage of the canal, this supply was found insufficient and, in 1836, an artificial lake, Wilton Water, was created.