May 9, 2019
The Ackroyd shop stood next to the National Yacht Club at the foot of Bathurst Street
If there is an Ontario builder whose fame rests on the production of a single model of boat, it must be Aykroyd’s. That boat, their 14 ft sailing dinghy, became a beloved icon for countless amateur sailors. In 1943, not long before the shop closed, Aykroyd’s celebrated the launching of its 2,500th 14-footer. By itself, this dinghy accounted for about half of the company’s total output.
The legendary Ackroyd dinghy
Aykroyd’s got its start with Henry Aykroyd (1827-1890), who moved his family from Kingston to Toronto in 1868. With twenty years of boat building experience, he set up shop on the waterfront at the foot of Yonge St. Sometime around 1880, the shop was forced by construction to move to the foot of York St., where they built a two-storey boathouse, right next to the Queen City Yacht Club. Not long after, Henry’s son Maitland (1859-1950) joined the business and it became “Aykroyd & Son.” At this time they were making touring boats, rowboats and sailboats of various sizes. After Henry’s death in 1890, another of his sons, George (1864-1946), partnered with Maitland to form “Aykroyd Brothers.” In 1921 The business, which also rented boats, remained at this location until 1921, when it was moved to the foot of Bathurst St.
In the early 1890s, the Lake Sailing Skiff Association (LSSA) established a class of standardized 14ft sailing dinghy. By 1898, George Aykroyd had designed a boat to conform to this class, a gaff-rigged, lapstrake catboat. Available in both a racing and a recreational version, the latter was especially popular with cottagers and summer camps, and it sold well for decades. Even today, many of these boats have been preserved and remain in use.
Of the two brothers, George eventually became the more active in the business, and when Maitland retired in 1934 the name was changed once again, becoming simply “George Aykroyd.” Aykroyd’s was never a large operation; it normally employed only about five workers. Still, it remained successful and continued on until 1943, when George retired and sold the company assets to J.J. Taylor & Sons.
• Gerry Hatherley
Gerry Hatherley is a researcher and writer for the Archives at Muskoka Steamships and Discovery Centre. His main focus has been on the vintage boat builders of Muskoka. Gerry lives in Gravenhurst, ON, and has deep family roots in the region.
This article is the CYOB’s fifth in a series of articles and photos. The series is nine at the moment but Gerry is working on another six or seven. Other articles in the series include:
Bastien Boats of Hamilton, ON