Thomas Speight Wagon Works

Last updated

Thomas Speight Wagon Works was a Canadian carriage builder based in Markham, Ontario, and was the biggest supplier of horsecars for the Toronto Street Railways, but took orders as far west as Winnipeg, Manitoba. [1]



In 1830, Thomas Speight of Yorkshire, England, established a wagon manufacturing facility in the village of Markham. [2] The operations grew on Main Street Markham. Some parts of the wagon builder were located on the northwest corner of Main Street north of Highway 7, just south of the St. Andrew's United Church and later on the east side of Main Street (20 Main Street – now Thomson Court Apartments and Paradise Plaza). The company even had a distribution office in Toronto (102 Front Street East), then two warehouses on Ontario Street and Jarvis Street in 1900 and in Fort William, Ontario. [3]

James Speight (1830–1903), son of Thomas, continued the family business in Markham having rebuilt after the 1877 fire and was the first reeve of Markham Village in 1873. In 1882 it became Speight Manufacturing Company of Markham Limited , but ran into trouble, but saved by Thomas Heys and Thomas Henry Speight (son of Thomas Speight) in 1890 and became Speight Wagon Company. James Speight died in Markham in 1903.

Thomas' son John Speight established a carriage builder, John Speight and Sons with brothers Samuel and later Michael) in the 1850s in Acton, Ontario by the 1850s and remained there until their deaths (John in 1881 and Samuel in 1882). His company was passed on to brother Michael (died 1889 after leaving Acton for Markham after 1882) and finally to Joseph Albert Speight (1846–1902).

Speight also operated a planing mill and sash-and-door factory near the wagon works. In 1910 the company was acquired by Port Arthur Wagon Company and folded shortly after and the Port Arthur Wagon folded by the end of World War I in 1918. [4]

End of Speight Wagon Works

The Markham factory remained in operation until November 1917, likely due to the decline in use of wagons and sleighs with use of the automobiles. [5]

One office building near 20 Main Street became Beare Sons & Clayton General Motors dealership and in 1921 as Markham Garage. [6] The factory buildings and the garage burned down in 1922. Today the site of the old factory and garage has been replaced with several businesses fronting Main Street and a condo in the rear. The company had a warehouse at 102 Front Street East in Toronto.

The Speights and some of their employees had homes along Main Street. Some of the homes survive today, such as 40–44 Main Street North. James Speight built his home at 48 Main Street North, now the Wedding Cake House. [7]


Speight sold their products for retail and wholesale market. Most customers were farmers or companies needing a means to transport goods.

See also

In the 19th century there were two other carriage builders in York Region:

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">McLaughlin Motor Car Company</span> Canadian manufacturer of automobiles

McLaughlin Motor Car Company Limited was a Canadian manufacturer of automobiles headquartered in Oshawa, Ontario. Founded by Robert McLaughlin, it once was the largest carriage manufacturing factory in the British Empire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Markham, Ontario</span> City in Ontario, Canada

Markham is a city in the Regional Municipality of York, Ontario, Canada. It is approximately 30 km (19 mi) northeast of Downtown Toronto. In the 2021 Census, Markham had a population of 338,503, which ranked it the largest in York Region, fourth largest in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and 16th largest in Canada.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Regional Municipality of York</span> Regional municipality in Ontario, Canada

The Regional Municipality of York, also called York Region, is a regional municipality in Southern Ontario, Canada, between Lake Simcoe and Toronto. The region was established after the passing of then Bill 102, An Act to Establish The Regional Municipality of York, in 1970. It replaced the former York County in 1971, and is part of the Greater Toronto Area and the inner ring of the Golden Horseshoe. The regional government is headquartered in Newmarket.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Georgetown, Ontario</span> Community in Ontario, Canada

Georgetown is a large unincorporated community in the town of Halton Hills, Ontario, Canada, in the Regional Municipality of Halton. The town includes several small villages or settlements such as Norval, Limehouse, Stewarttown and Glen Williams near Georgetown and another large population centre, Acton. In 2016, the population of Georgetown was 42,123. It sits on the banks of the Credit River, approximately 40 km west of Toronto, and is part of the Greater Toronto Area. Georgetown was named after entrepreneur George Kennedy who settled in the area in 1821 and built several mills and other businesses.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Acton, Ontario</span> Rural area in Ontario, Canada

Acton is a community located in the town of Halton Hills, in Halton Region, Ontario, Canada. At the northern end of the Region, it is on the outer edge of the Greater Toronto Area and is one of two of the primary population centres of the Town; the other is Georgetown. From 1842 until 1986, the town was a major centre for the tanning and leather goods industry. In the early years, it was often referred to as "Leathertown".

Stouffville is the primary urban area within the town of Whitchurch-Stouffville in York Region, Ontario, Canada. It is situated within the Greater Toronto Area and the inner ring of the Golden Horseshoe. The urban area is centred at the intersection of Main Street, Mill Street, and Market Street. Between 2006 and 2011, the population of the Community of Stouffville grew 100.5% from 12,411 to 24,886, or from 51% to 66% of the total population of the larger town of Whitchurch-Stouffville. The population of Stouffville from the 2021 census is 36,753.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Horsecar</span> Animal-powered tram or streetcar

A horsecar, horse-drawn tram, horse-drawn streetcar (U.S.), or horse-drawn railway (historical), is an animal-powered tram or streetcar.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Williams Omnibus Bus Line</span> First passenger transport system in Toronto, Ontario

Williams Omnibus Bus Lines was the first mass transportation system in the old City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada with four six-passenger buses. Established in 1849 by local cabinetmaker Burt Williams, it consisted of horse-drawn stagecoaches operating from the St. Lawrence Market to the Red Lion Hotel in Yorkville. The bus line was a great success, and four larger vehicles were added in 1850. After a few years, even more buses were in use, and were operating every few minutes. In 1861, the city gave a 30-year franchise for to Toronto Street Railways who built a horse car line, and the gauge of the buses was modified so as to fit between the tracks. The bus system lasted only until 1862, when it was bought out by the TSR. The omnibuses were manufactured by Williams' own cabinet-making store on Yonge Street, H. Burt Williams.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Toronto Street Railway</span> Streetcar operator in Toronto, Canada, from 1861 to 1891

The Toronto Street Railway (TSR) was the operator of a horse-drawn streetcar system from 1861 to 1891 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Its successor, the Toronto Railway Company, inherited the horsecar system and electrified it between 1892 and 1894.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Markham, Ontario</span>

The history of Markham, Ontario dates back several millennia. What would become Markham, Ontario was home to First Nations long before European settlement. Seasonal settlements were found from 900 BC to 1650, but traces of these first residence were buried before the area was farmed.

John Speight and Sons was a Canadian carriage builder in Acton, Ontario established by brothers Samuel and John Speight in 1850.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Trench III</span>

William Trench III was the reeve of Richmond Hill, Ontario from 1875–1879 and 1881 - 1882.

The history of Richmond Hill began when the First Nations came and settled in the area. With the Toronto Purchase, the city gradually expanded with new greenhouse industries and improved transportation infrastructure.

Markham Village is the historic town centre of Markham, Ontario, Canada. Originally settled in 1825, the village, which was originally named "Reesorville" sometime after 1804 and also known as "Mannheim", was founded by Mennonites from Upstate New York and Pennsylvania. Eventually, as Upper Canada started to experience immigration from the British Isles, Markham would experience significant growth. By 1825, the name "Markham" was established as the permanent name. In 1850, it was established as a police village, and in 1873 was fully incorporated as a village within York County. Markham was amalgamated with the surrounding Markham Township, which included the villages of Unionville and Thornhill in 1971, and incorporated as a town.

Ottawa Electric Railway Company was a streetcar public transit system in the city of Ottawa, Canada, part of the electric railway streetcars that operated between 1891 and 1959. Ottawa once had tracks through downtown on Rideau Street, Sparks Street and others, and extended outside of the downtown core to provide services that helped form communities such as Westboro, Old Ottawa South and The Glebe. Prior to this, starting in 1866, public transportation was provided by Ottawa City Passenger Railway Company, a horse-drawn tram service. The O.E.R. was taken over by the Ottawa Transportation Commission in 1948, which was itself succeeded by OC Transpo in 1973.

Phoenix Carriage Works was a carriage builder established in the 1840s in Markham Village and rival to Thomas Speight Wagon Works.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Toronto-gauge railways</span> Railway track gauge (1495 mm)

Toronto-gauge railways are tram and rapid transit lines built to Toronto gauge, a broad gauge of 4 ft 10+78 in. This is 2+38 in (60 mm) wider than standard gauge of 4 ft 8+12 in which is by far the most common track gauge in Canada. The gauge is unique to the Greater Toronto Area and is currently used on the Toronto streetcar system and the Toronto subway, both operated by the Toronto Transit Commission. As well, the Halton County Radial Railway, a transport museum, uses the Toronto gauge so its rail line can accommodate its collection of Toronto streetcars and subway trains. Several now-defunct interurban rail systems also once used this gauge.


  1. "Markham Village Buildings' History". Archived from the original on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  2. "Markham Village Buildings' History". Archived from the original on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-01-13.
  3. "Speight Wagon Company". Archived from the original on 2016-04-25. Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  4. Port Arthur Wagon & Implements Ltd (PDF) (PDF document). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-09-08. Retrieved 2019-04-27 via
  5. "Speight Wagon Factory, Markham, Ont., Canada". Markham Village – Postcard Views. January 24, 2007. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2010-05-01.
  6. Markham Remembers. Markham Museum News, page 5, December 2007.
  7. "The Wedding Cake House". Canada's Historic Places. Archived from the original on 2020-07-05. Retrieved 2020-07-03.
  8. Stamp, Robert M. (1991). "Chapter 8: Fire Brigades and Fence Viewers". Early Days in Richmond Hill: A History of the Community to 1930 (Electronic ed.). Richmond Hill Public Library Board. Archived from the original on 2016-04-01. Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  9. "Henry R. Wales Dwelling and Carriage Works". Archived from the original on 2015-01-12. Retrieved 2015-01-12.