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“Thorn”, Cirencester: reassuring red drum

“Thorn” burglar alarm, Cirencester • There are two main variations of these reassuringly large red drums with their mysterious blue-black panel: ones saying Thorn, and ones saying Thorn EMI, which helps guess their date – although exactly how I am still trying to establish, as you will see from the comments below. This bears the stylish logo of Thorn Electrical Industries, named not after spiky vegetation but its founder Jules Thorn, a Viennese Jewish emigré later knighted for his philanthropic efforts (there are lots of Lords in burglar alarm land). From its inception in 1926 (the high days of Modernism indeed) until his retirement in 1976, Sir Jules grew Thorn from a specialist lighting company into one of UK’s largest electrical businesses; but after his death in 1980, a familiar tale of deregulated slash and burn kicks in. The EMI merger occurred in 1979, then in 1994 the alarm division went solo again as Thorn Security Group, having been subject to a £38m partial management buyout (so being spared the hubristic noughties debacle of EMI’s colossally debt-financed takeover by Guy Hands and subsequent seizure by US bank Citigroup – another fine British company lost). In 1997, Thorn merged with its two biggest rivals Modern Alarms and ADT to become ADT Fire and Security PLC, its familiar name finally disappearing forever. So, I originally conjectured that the red drums’ design timeline ran thus: those saying simply Thorn, pre-1980s; those branded Thorn EMI, 1979–1994; and a version with a substantially different logo saying Thorn Security, presumably from the 1994–1997 post-EMI period. However if you read the comments below it seems I am wrong… so I will update this once I’m clearer of the facts. In addition, Wikipedia reckons that although ADT replaced most of the famous red boxes after 1997, they also continued to manufacture heritage Thorn systems till quite recently, so possibly that included the reassuring red drums too – again, any info would be welcomed. • Spotted: Town centre, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cotswolds


3 replies »

  1. ADT unfortunatly removed most of these after aquasition in the 90’s, most being replaced with the ADT threepenny bit style boxes. Soon to all be rebadged again as Tyco – ADT

  2. That in fact isn’t a Pre-1980s. It’s a post 1980s- introduced (using that style of logo) around 1990/1.
    I began fitting these from new!!
    The previous boxes had “Thorn” in big white letters, and a Thorn logo printed beneath.
    Prior to that, they used AFA-Minerva EMI plastic boxes (in the style of above), prior to that AFA-Minerva metal boxes (the shallow ones), then AFA-Minerva (deep ones), and from day one AFA-Burglar Alarms

    • Thanks – I would like to get this correct, and I admit I was just conjecturing. However I’m still a bit confused. When you fitted these in 1990/91, was the company still owned by EMI? I found various sources stating that EMI owned Thorn from 1979 to 1994 – if that’s correct, and you fitted these in 1990/91, then EMI were leaving their logo off when they still owned it. Or do you think I have my dates wrong about the EMI ownership?

      Also, there are some Thorn designs which still have a big red drum, but the design is totally different, it says Thorn Security (in 2 lines) with a white square logo to the left that’s got a T made of red lines in it. They look more recent to me, I thought maybe they came after EMI sold off Thorn (which if my dates are correct would be 1994-1997). Do you know anything about these?

      One day I will do a timeline of AFA / Minerva / Thorn / Thorn EMI / Thorn / ADT if I can get enough information from those in the know!

      PS There’s an image of the Thorn Security / white square alarm here

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