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“Lander”, Tower Hamlets: a Scottish family tale

“Lander Alarms” burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • I have always been intrigued by these Lander boxes. There are plenty still around, but the well-preserved example here is an exception: most are extremely rusty and sun-bleached, and appear to have been abandoned decades ago. I was first attracted by their abstract geometrical logo, which can also be read as two Ls with a red sensor in the middle, echoing the bulb beneath. If repeated, it would make a snazzy piece of 1970s fabric design, and like the Capstan identity of a few days ago, harks back to the heyday of rigorous Swiss graphics. The two Ls surely represent the two Landers behind this Scottish family enterprise: old father Lander, who founded the firm, and whose first name I can’t discover; and his entrepreneurial son Ronald (aka Ron), who by his 20s had got a BSc in Electrical Engineering and established the only mortgage brokerage in Scotland. He joined his father’s alarm business in the 1970s, rapidly building it up and then in 1979 progressively selling it out to RMC Group (a building supplies conglomerate later notorious for the 1989 Marchioness disaster, when its aggregate dredger Bowbelle rammed a Thames pleasure boat with the loss of 60 lives). Ron stayed on as MD of Lander Alarms until 1985, growing it by acquisition into one of the UK’s three largest electronic security firms, upon which RMC offloaded it for nearly £50m to Automated Security Holdings, later bought by Lord Ashcroft’s ADT, itself ending up part of global behemoth Tyco. Ronald Lander, meanwhile, exited a millionaire – which meant more in the 1980s than it does now – and got into educational software and civic duties, becoming one of Scotland’s best-known business figures and earning a Professorship and an OBE. His internet mentions seem to dry up after 1997, but neither have I come across an obituary – so who knows where the man behind Lander is today, though his alarms look like they gave up the ghost when he sold out in 1979. Fortunately they age exceptionally well, fading gracefully into sepia-toned tableaux of beautiful decay – a theme I’ll be returning to later. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow

31 replies »

  1. I completed my 3 year apprenticeship with Lander Alrms Brockley and met Mr Ron Lander , he gave out my city and guild certs and i have them framed and hung and look back on an apprenticeship scheme well served …..and sadly not done anymore .
    Good old bell boxes needed 2 inch tens and would get a thick ear if the two lid screws where not in line !!

  2. Not quite sure what I’m doing here, but as the (eldest) grandson of Alex Lander it makes me proud to see his legacy living on and people still remembering him.

    • I was the branch manager for Landers 1982 – 1985, I had to display in my office three black & white photographs of Alex Lander and possibly Jim Green’s father outside the Lander office in Glasgow in the 1950s. They used to generated a lot questions and conversation, I would imagine they were sent to every branch to display.
      As I have said below I only met Alex once and we had a short but interesting conversation, rarely saw Ron Lander, in fact it could have been at least six months before he came to my branch, which was possibly the one and only time, which I found hard to understand as he would go to RMC the owners of Landers in Feltham for meetings etc. and stay with a relation in Kew, both towns are just down the road from Wimbledon.

      • Mike, on behalf of Ron (aka Dad), can I apologise for him not visiting you more. I know he was under a lot of pressure to build the business and I’m sure he’d rather have been at your place than Feltham! In the end his entrepreneurial spirit overcame corporate bureaucracy. If it’s any consolation, we didn’t see much of him either in the Lander Alarms’ days…He’s still around though (himself a grandfather of 5), and I will direct him to this blog. Thanks for taking the trouble to reply. Nick

        • We met at an industry Christmas cocktail party in Sussex and he promised to visit my branch, which he did a few weeks later, I found him to be a likeable & friendly person, he found something within the branch that was very important and required imediate action, which no other senior managers had previously identified, I believe some people naturally have it and some don’t.
          Please send my regards to him.

          • I’m on the case…I have a feeling he’ll be in touch soon! I know what you mean about being hands-on…it’s a family trait that has passed undiluted to both my brother and me…some may not like it but it’s attention to detailed issues that helps build success. Nick

    • Yes it was Alex, in the early 70s when the NSCIA was formed he used to come to London for NSCIA meetings and had no idea where to go after the meetings because he was a stranger in London, one of the old NSCIA inspectors Bob McChesney would keep him company or advice him on where to occupy his time.
      When Landers acquired Enright Security & Rentokil Security in 1982 a promotional day was held in the docks by Tower Bridge to introduce Landers to the police & insurance companies, although he was retired Alex came along that day, it was the only time I saw him in 3 years with Landers.

  3. Hi. You may be thinking of Paul Hayes. I’m sure he has a Villa in Spain. He purchased the burglar alarm contracts of London East Security Centre (Yellow Bell Boxes) and now Trades as Telecom Alarms Steve Gardiner is based on the Isle of something and comes over from time to time. Phil Phillapo has a company called CSL – Consolidated Security Limited. He is in business with a guy called Derek, who’s second name escapes me who was the principle of Bond Alarms (Acquired by Nu-Tron). Bond had two secretaries, one called Tracey who now works for Essex Security Service and another called Claire, who after leaving Bond worked for us for a while. The alarm industry is very incestuous.

  4. Three villas up the road from me in Menorca was and may still be owned by the original owner of Nu Tron with their bell box still on it. I was told he left the running of the company to his son but ended up having to return to UK to sort things out. I keep looking out to speak to someone but it’s rarely occupied.
    I will take a photo of the box and the box on my villa and send them to you.

    • You are giving me an image of the typical burglar alarm boss’s career path: 1) set up firm 2) sell up to adt 3) retire to villa in warm clime!

      • I’m 65 only retired a couple of years ago, anyone can retire to Spain it’s much cheaper to live here than the UK and even with the bad exchange rate at the moment, you still get more Euros to the pound. Don’t laugh we still get the heating allowance from the UK.

        • Mike.

          I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t be the owners of Nu-Tron that had to return home. I can think of others that have had similar problems, which I will not name but not Nu-Tron. The owners (Directors) always had a quite hands-on approach.

          • Gerry it’s funny you say that because here in Menorca when someone gives some sort of information, no one takes it seriously because there is so much what they call bar chat.
            Would the owner of Nu-Tron owned the villa though as it has their bell boxes or could it be someone that worked for the company.

    • You are correct. M-Tronic were a East London based company, who I think may have sold to Lander along with Enright Security. Unless I am mistaken, Nu-Tron was started after the sale of M-Tronic but the original M-Tronic owners/staff but was subsequantly purchased by Steve Gardiner, Phil Phillapo and Paul Hayes. Nu-Tron took over Kings Cross based Bond Security. The whole lot was sold….to guess who….ADT. The Nu-Tron ‘N’ logo and the M-Tronic ‘M’ logo were very similar. I also have not seen an M-Tronic alarm for many many years, to be honest, I dont think that many ever existed!

      • Whereas there are plenty of Nu-Tron boxes still around, I’ll be featuring one soon. I’ve mainly seen them near to Liverpool Street and Kings Cross stations which makes sense given that’s where they were based.

      • Hoorah, quite by chance I found an M-Tronic at the weekend in Islington! V old, but still readable. I took a photo in the near-dark thinking it was a Metro, then when I checked the photo later realised it was the elusive M-Tronic, which I will feature soon.

      • M-Tronic never sold to Landers between 1982 & 1985 and I don’t remember them selling to Landers after that before Landers sold to Moderns in 1990/91

  5. Good old Lander Arms. Originally. Scottish company, end up aquired by Modern Alarms. Metal bell box housing a Friedland 6″ bell, a single micro switch acing as ful front and rear amper ditch with a PCB nd nicad battery for self cutting operation. The strobe light was drilled through the bottom of the box and mounted via a backet internally to the box.

    Not sure who copied who, but both Lander and London based M-Tronic had covers secured by the two screws as shown above.

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