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“Brocks Alarms”, Islington: non-faded

“Brocks Alarms” burglar alarm, Islington • You don’t see too many of these old Brocks boxes with the lion and shield on; normally they are plain white with just the logo at the top. I never know whether that’s because they started like that, or the lion and shield faded off – I suspect the latter. A nice design anyway, and it heralds (geddit) the last shield, as the knightly arm-borne protection falls away leaving just a few heraldic-style animals. • Spotted: Albermarle Way, Islington, London, EC1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury

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  1. Anyone remember a Bradford based alarm company in the early to mid 70’s called ‘Northern Security’? One of the main players, if not the founder was a guy called Geoff Milner. Anyway, when I started with Brocks in 1975, the story was that Geoff re – named his company ‘Critec Security’ and he sold out to Brocks Alarms. The control panels, Bell boxes and detectors were (manufactured?) and supplied by a company down south called ‘Gaffa Security’. The main guy at Gaffa had a peculiar accent which was unmistakably etched onto every engineer’s memory because he used to voice over the message tape, which repeated very slowly over and over and went something like this. . . “POLICE-POLICE-POLICE; THIS IS AN INTRUDER ALARM ALERT, SERIAL NUMBER $£^&*+. INTRUDERS AT (address of customer). . .
    When carrying out the annual service of the system, we had to call the local fuzz control room and explain that it was a test recording only that would be coming through. We would hang up and then trip the auto dialler and listen in with our home made earpiece with crocodile clips. You could hear it dial then, when answered, the volts on the line would drop from 50v DC to about 20v DC. This would then actuate the tape. We could hear the fuzz control room in the background so we knew absolutely that it HAD been received. However, when calling the fuzz back, invariably they would DENY having received it. Make of that what you want, I know what I used to think. Incidentally, the situation with the line voltage could be manipulated (back then it was analogue) to hold a line open for surveillance (spying) purposes, which was and is totally illegal. Any number could be called and when answered, the recipient was informed “Sorry, wrong number” when they replaced their handset, the line voltage could be artificially maintained from the diallers end and the exchange would not disconnect the connection. In this way, the recipients handset was still ‘live’ and all conversations could be heard by the dialler, even though the recipients handset was sat on the cradle. Hmmm, that was 1975. What can be done now?

      • When testing a new 999 auto dialler in the early 70s you had to report to the local police station and show your ID. After testing the auto dialler through to Surrey HQ for some unknown reason they would send a police car to check it was a test. They’ve got more efficient since then, they just don’t come at all now.

  2. I worked for Brocks in Leeds during 1976. The ‘Wedge’ bell box you describe was termed a ‘Truncated Pyramid’. Brocks only used battery operated systems employing 5 flag cells of 1.5volts in the cabinet above the control panel, wth 2 flag cells per circuit zone at the end of the line,
    The cabinets and control panels were painted brown. The development of such innovative manufacturers such as ADE and installers such as Critec, blew away the principle of batteries for main power and other technologies such as ultrasonic, microwave and then infra red saw a quantum leap in in the growth of the industry.

    • A “Truncated Pyramid”, I like it! Thanks for contributing – any further comments you make will now go straight through onto the blog without moderation.

    • Didn’t Brocks use an early type of movement detector that looked like a cctv camera? I’m sure i remember seeing them in places with Brocks alarm systems at the time.

      • Yes, This was first generation. Just like a small cctv camera, it employed a grey, thin plastic screen through which the microwaves emitted. Being first generation they were notorious for false alarms. i.e. no circuitry for eliminating spikes in the signal etc. It was paramount that they were sited correctly. i.e. not facing windows (they’d penetrate) also, metal surfaces. I remember a car sales room in Bradford in ’76, the guy was fuming, (I got the flack) the microwaves were being reflected from the metallic surfaces and through the sky lights and windows. He stopped turning the system on as he had a 100 percent false alarm rate!
        I once went to service a posh domestic property in Selby. I got my ears chewed off by the owner who was having false alarms with the microwaves. His were not cctv type but more like a modern Infrared, but 4 times bigger.

        • Hi there, thanks for contributing this info to the blog. Your comments will be published immediately in future, without waiting for moderation.

        • We had a system in a house that false alarmed around six every morning, the owners gave us their front door key & we arrived at 5.30 in the morning and waited for the false alarm at six, it was their labrador getting up from it’s bed that was right above the microwave detector in the room underneath, would engineers do that sort of detective work nowadays?

          • When I worked at Chubb Alarms (I left 25 years ago, so must be about 28 years ago) we had a job that sent a short circuit at 11am every morning to the monitoring station via the private circuit. Various engineers attended every day for weeks and found no reason, until one day, an engineer noticed that at 11am each day the same person put the kettle on (the stafff did a rota) and the 11am person was left handed and moved the kettle around. This resulted in the steam of the boiling water hitting some lace wire on the adjacent wall, which caused the earth fault !!!!!! BNeat that! That person oinly ever made the tea at 11am hence no problem any other time

              • Almost as good as the apocraphal man who took the name ‘burglar alarm’ literally and couldn’t believe you could get an alarm in the absence of an actual intruder (‘it can’t be my wife causing this, she isn’t a burglar…’)

  3. I’m going to sound really sad, but this is my most favourite bell box of all time. Of all the boxes that I have acquired over the years, it is this Brocks Bell that has always eluded me. Don’t get me wrong, I have had Brocks bells in the past, but always the older type. This bell differs from the previous Brocks bells shown on here in that the actual bell inside is a 6″ under dome bell, not the type with the side hammer. In addition, the ‘Deac’ battery is replaced with a 6volt 1ah battery. The wire, that used to be threaded through holes in the side of the bell box cover to act as a tamper was replaced on this model with two micro switches, one that was depressed when the cover was on, and the other, depressed whilst the back plate, a sheet of steel was secured to the wall. The cover was secured by four screws on the rear sides of the cover that screwed into the back plate. The only reason that I know so much about them is that I have seen them on walls over the years without the covers on, in addition, I have an old Brocks brochure that shows this model and a picture inside it. If anyone has one of these particular bell boxes that they no longer want I would love it add it to my collection (along with an old wedge type Modern Alarms bell box – which has also eluded me)

    • Ok you have the bell boxes, but I have the original drawings for the flux flow contact and the G- type panels. Happy new year . Ian Gant son of your former MD

    • yes i worked for modern in the late 70s, nobodys mentioned reseting the dialler by putting the record arm to the start of the disc ho ho,had one of them boxes till a cupla years ago,stored all me ali fittings in it,if i couldn’t use me spring, never used many,tube pretty thick in them days.good old dc unless you had a short . happy days steve triplett modern wedge in weymouth where i live ya neva know

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