Thomas Speight Wagon Works

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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]

Canada Country in North America

Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering 9.98 million square kilometres, making it the world's second-largest country by total area. Canada's southern border with the United States, stretching some 8,891 kilometres (5,525 mi), is the world's longest bi-national land border. Its capital is Ottawa, and its three largest metropolitan areas are Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. As a whole, Canada is sparsely populated, the majority of its land area being dominated by forest and tundra. Consequently, its population is highly urbanized, with over 80 percent of its inhabitants concentrated in large and medium-sized cities, with 70% of citizens residing within 100 kilometres (62 mi) of the southern border. Canada's climate varies widely across its vast area, ranging from arctic weather in the north, to hot summers in the southern regions, with four distinct seasons.

Carriage Generally horse-drawn means of transport

A carriage is a wheeled vehicle for people, usually horse-drawn; litters (palanquins) and sedan chairs are excluded, since they are wheelless vehicles. The carriage is especially designed for private passenger use, though some are also used to transport goods. A public passenger vehicle would not usually be called a carriage – terms for such include stagecoach, charabanc and omnibus. It may be light, smart and fast or heavy, large and comfortable or luxurious. Carriages normally have suspension using leaf springs, elliptical springs or leather strapping. Working vehicles such as the (four-wheeled) wagon and (two-wheeled) cart share important parts of the history of the carriage, as does too the fast (two-wheeled) chariot.

Markham, Ontario City in Ontario, Canada

Markham is a city in the Regional Municipality of York within the Greater Toronto Area of Southern Ontario, Canada. It is approximately 30 km (19 mi) northeast of Downtown Toronto. The city is the fourth-most populous community within the Greater Toronto Area after Toronto, Mississauga and Brampton and is York Region's most populous municipality.



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]

Yorkshire Historic county of Northern England

Yorkshire, formally known as the County of York, is a historic county of Northern England and the largest in the United Kingdom. Due to its great size in comparison to other English counties, functions have been undertaken over time by its subdivisions, which have also been subject to periodic reform. Throughout these changes, Yorkshire has continued to be recognised as a geographical territory and cultural region. The name is familiar and well understood across the United Kingdom and is in common use in the media and the military, and also features in the titles of current areas of civil administration such as North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

Wagon four wheeled vehicle (mostly pulled by draught animals)

A wagon is a heavy four-wheeled vehicle pulled by draught animals or on occasion by humans, used for transporting goods, commodities, agricultural materials, supplies and sometimes people.

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).

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

Acton, Ontario 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".

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]

A planing mill is a facility that takes cut and seasoned boards from a sawmill and turns them into finished dimensional lumber. Machines used in the mill include the planer and matcher, the molding machines, and varieties of saws. In the planing mill planer operators use machines that smooth and cut the wood for many different uses.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

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 73 Main Street, now the Wedding Cake House.


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 2 other carriage builders in York Region:

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  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-01-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-22. Retrieved 2012-01-13.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  5. Speight Wagon Factory, Markham, Ont., Canada, January 24, 2007.
  6. Markham Remembers. Markham Museum News, page 5, December 2007.