General News

Lady Eaton’s cart rolls into King

November 3, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Erika Baird
Heritage & Cultural Supervisor
Township of King

In King Township we are fortunate to have had several famous residents who have helped to put us on the map. While we often share their stories in the exhibitions we host, we are not always lucky enough to receive artifacts used by them to help tell these stories.
So you can imagine how thrilled we were to hear that a cart owned by Lady Eaton was not only still in existence, but being offered to the King Heritage & Cultural Centre in pristine condition.
Many of you will remember the Eaton family, of Canadian department store fame. The T. Eaton Company was founded in Toronto in 1869 by Timothy Eaton. The company grew rapidly with stores across Canada and a catalogue that many still remember scanning through to find everything from clothes to household goods. The success of the company quickly made Eaton’s a household name and made the family one of the richest in Canada. Upon his death in 1907 the company passed to his son, John Craig Eaton.
Lady Eaton was born in Omemee, Ontario, Lady Eaton as Flora McCrea (1879-1970). She was working as a nurse in Toronto when she met a young patient named John Craig Eaton. The couple married in 1901 and raised four sons and two daughters in a lavish custom-built home in Toronto, called “Ardwold.” Located near Castle Loma, Ardwold reportedly had 50 rooms, 14 bathrooms, a swimming pool and private hospital! In 1915, when her husband was knighted, Flora became Lady Eaton.
In 1920, on the suggestion of their friend Sir Henry Pellatt, John and Flora purchased a country estate in King Township (Dufferin Street and 15th Sideroad) and had a large manor house built. It was my understanding that she built Eaton Hall in the 1930s well after the death of her husband. “Eaton Hall” is now home to Seneca College.
In 1922, when her husband succumbed to pneumonia, Lady Eaton was widowed but stayed active with the family business. By the mid-1930s, she moved to Eaton Hall and King became her main residence. You can imagine the cart rolling along the hills of the property with some of her children or grandchildren happily bouncing along inside.
Lady Eaton’s cart is a two-wheeled, horse-drawn vehicle, commonly known as a “governess cart.” The tub-style body and rear entrance door provided an enclosed seating area that made it relatively safe for transporting children. The cart could be pulled by a pony or small horse and was popular with wealthy families for use by young women. It was likely used to transport some of the six Eaton children, born between 1903 and 1920. It was designed so that the governess would be able to sit in the cart with the children to keep an eye on them.
Made by English carriage maker J.A. Lawton around 1910, this cart was given to the donor’s grandmother, Ruth Cowans Mackay, in the 1960s by Lady Eaton herself.
The family has kept the vehicle in beautiful condition, making sure to retain its original colours, that also happen to match the Eaton brand. The cart also includes original lantern lights, sixteen-spoke wheels with rubber tires and horsehair padding all of which add to its charm and authenticity.
Lady’s Eaton’s cart is on display until Dec. 18 at the King Heritage & Cultural Centre at 2920 King Road, King City. Come by to visit and see it for yourself Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information contact kingmuseum@king.ca or call 905-833-2331.



         

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