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Royalty

“Duchy”, Cornwall: property of Prince Charles

"Duchy Alarms" burglar alarm, Cornwall  • Today starts the theme of "bigwigs", by which I mean the aristocracy and the political establishment, the so-called "great and the good" – subjects ever-popular on burglar alarms. We start with a Duchy, property of a monarch or duke (the next rung down from monarchy), so it's the biggest wig I've featured since the royalty theme, assuming we leave the higher powers of religion out of it. This alarm refers to the Duchy of Cornwall, that bit of the county that belongs to the Prince of Wales, and has done since 1337 (not the same Prince, of course). Apparently, when people in Cornwall die without wills, their estate goes not to help suffering children or even homeless cats, but to the Duchy. I wonder if Prince Charles owns this burglar alarm? • Spotted: Bank Street, Newquay, Cornwall, TR7, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of St. Austell and Newquay
“Duchy”, Cornwall: property of Prince Charles

“Monarch”, Lambeth: dribbly digital throwback

"Monarch Security Services" burglar alarm, Lambeth • I started the royalty theme with a Monarch, so I'll end with one. I don't know if this is the same firm, and as it's long pre-internet I can't find out, but it's the most sorry example of a regal alarm so far – faded and dribbly and with a design that makes no reference to the lofty name. Instead, it's in a style that's come to be known as "retro-futurism", that is to say designs which were originally an attempt to look futuristic but now look poignantly dated – like this alarm's imitation seven-segment LED font, recalling the days when pocket calculators cost 200 quid. With renewed interest in film cameras, vinyl records and 8-bit video games, retro-futurism is much in vogue these days. I'd hate to see burglar alarms left out of a fashion craze, so coming next... retro-futurism! • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
“Monarch”, Lambeth: dribbly digital throwback

“Kings”, Westminster: lit from within

"Kings" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • This is a late entrant to the royalty theme, which I found just the other evening. The logo suggests this is the same firm featured here, albeit without the crown. What's incredibly hard to show in a photo is that this sounder's lit up inside, glowing like a beacon in the dark. The photo below shows how it really looked, and the one under that was taken with flash to show the sounder's details. There are lots of these internally lit alarms around these days – it's the latest trend – but the difficulty of photographing in the dark has stopped me from featuring them. • Spotted: Bruton Place, London, W1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Kings”, Westminster: lit from within

“Imperial”, Bristol: Ballardian Chinese take-away

"Imperial" burglar alarm, Bristol • Yet another Imperial, and though it looks completely different from yesterday's, I'm guessing it's the same firm in an earlier guise. It's most incongruous for a Bristol burglar alarm: a Chinese house against a big round moon, or perhaps it's a Japanese-style rising (or setting) sun of empire. To me, it can only conjure up JG Ballard's brilliant fictive memoir Empire of the Sun, based on his childhood in Japanese-occupied WWII Shanghai – and of course WWII is a popular alarm trope. But for a security device this is a very fanciful design, and one more suited to a Chinese take-away. Taking away isn't a good connotation for a burglar alarm, so I'm not surprised it got changed.• Spotted: Clifton area, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Imperial”, Bristol: Ballardian Chinese take-away

“Imperial Fire & Security”, Bristol: dark ruler

"Imperial Fire & Security" burglar alarm, Bristol • This is almost the same as yesterday's Imperial, but I include it because it's the first time I've come across a bell box in alternate colourways, and also black is quite unusual. Despite its corporate blandness this logo is obviously a professional design job, and was clearly thought through: the black sounder looks smart and groovy, but you'd want a white one on light-coloured walls (as long as it was cleaner than yesterday's example). • Spotted: Wapping Wharf, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Imperial Fire & Security”, Bristol: dark ruler

“Imperial Fire & Security”, Bristol: royal connections

"Imperial Fire & Security" burglar alarm, Bristol • According to its website, Imperial was founded in 1997 and is based in Bristol – which seems to have an unfeasably large number of local security firms. There's nothing about the look of this that suggests royalty, unless the blue ribbon has some regal significace that escapes me. But there's no doubt that the emperor-related word "imperial" fits within this week's regal theme, as does the serendipitous Queen's Road location. • Spotted: Queen's Road, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Imperial Fire & Security”, Bristol: royal connections

“Sovereign Security”, Bristol: god bless Queen Vic

"Sovereign Security" burglar alarm, Bristol • Nestling on a fine brutalist wall is another Sovereign Security sounder, though I don't know if it's the same company as yesterday or the day before. This looks like it dates from some time between those two, yet the design's totally different – but it seems unlikely there would be two firms with the same name operating in the Bristol area. It's a much duller design, even if it finally does spell out that SSS stands for Sovereign Security Services (nothing like repeating your name twice in the space of six inches). It was found in aptly regal Victoria Street, which like half the civic projects in England was named after good Queen Vic, which means they're also named after me.• Spotted: Town centre, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Sovereign Security”, Bristol: god bless Queen Vic

“Sovereign Fire & Security”, Bristol: apposite address

"Sovereign Fire & Security" burglar alarm, Bristol • A much more recent bell box from yesterday's Sovereign Security, found in the appropriate surrounds of Queen Square. It's similar to the "middle period" Sovereign I published many months ago here, except with an F instead of an S in the circle, and the addition of "Fire" to the name – a trend that seems to have been creeping in with other firms too. Rather tragically, I photographed this on New Years Day, which makes it my first-ever alarm from 2012. I really should have better things to do with my time. • Spotted: Queen Square, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Sovereign Fire & Security”, Bristol: apposite address

“Regal Security Systems”, Hackney: missing monarch

"Regal Security Systems" burglar alarm, Hackney • Yesterday I posted a Regal sticker, and today here's an actual sounder, of the classic 1980s design that looks like a clock-radio when mounted horizontally. I've searched for this firm on the internet but turned up nothing whatsoever, so presumably they were bought out before the world wide web got popular. Which means I will never get to find out what the big fat "W" in the logo stands for – and whether it's meant to resemble a crown. (Update: if you check the comment below and here, the mystery is solved –  Regal was originally Wimpey, and in 2001 sold out to ADT. Which makes it surprising I couldn't track down any info on Google, because 2001 isn't that long ago.) • Spotted: Hackney area, Hackney, London, E2, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Regal Security Systems”, Hackney: missing monarch

“Regal Security Systems”, Lambeth: vintage village

"Regal Security Systems" burglar alarm, Lambeth • Many moons ago I featured a Regal sticker which had taken over the shadowy running man on an RH Alarms box. And here's another, probably older design, that's been slapped over an ancient bell box whose name even the magic of Photoshop can't reveal. I found it in the fascinating warren of decaying covered markets that weaves beneath Brixton's railway lines like a multi-ethnic souk. It's now been reinvented as "Brixton Village" and, amidst a tangle of units selling everything from "cheap gold" to goats' heads, is home to a swathe of excellent pop-up eateries, from one of which I took this photo. True to its dodgy reputation, the area is positively bristling with burglar alarms, many as vintage as this one. So although I'm not keen to wander the Coldharbour Lane backstreets with an expensive camera – or even without one, for that matter – I'll be back. Preferably with tactical air cover. • Spotted: Market Row, Brixton, Lambeth, London SW9, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood
“Regal Security Systems”, Lambeth: vintage village

“Security” (with crown), Southwark: nameless ruler

"Security" burglar alarm with crown, Southwark • This cheerful yellow sounder, found on Decima Studios in Bermondsey, is a complete mystery – it doesn't even have a name. Presumably the cracker-style crown indicates the title "Crown Security", unless the company is simply called "Security", which would certainly be cornering the market. The phone number is a shifty old mobile one, and googling it turns up absolutely nothing, so a mystery the bell box must remain. • Spotted: Decima Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Security” (with crown), Southwark: nameless ruler

“Crown Security”, Camden: monarch of the waves

"Crown Security" burglar alarm, Camden • In typical burglar alarm fashion, this acronym has one more letter than the firm's name; and CSS could stand for many other things, from the USA's Central Security Service, to Catholic holy order the Congregation of the Sacred Stigmata, to Cascading Style Sheets, formatting language of the web. However from the 081 phone number I deduce that this is an earlier incarnation of yesterday's firm, although the logo is completely different. You still see a lot of bell boxes around with this chunky 1970s-style livery, whose design probably dates from the firm's founding in 1982. Although not that great – it looks like CSS is floating in a black sea, monarch of the waves – it's a lot more recognisable than its bland successor, so for brand continuity they should perhaps have evolved it rather than going for a total reboot. • Spotted: Torrington Square, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Crown Security”, Camden: monarch of the waves

“Crown Security Systems”, Hounslow: bleak and bland

"Crown Security Systems" burglar alarm, Hounslow • I'm already getting confused by the plethora of regal firms, so I've just looked up this particular Crown Security Systems to discover they were formed in 1982, and are based in Merton, South London. This bland crown is another that looks more like a jester's hat, and was shot on what I now remember to be a bleak and unhappy winter's day – it's amazing how even the most basic of photos can bring memories back of a whole walk. Its location, Chiswick Mall, sounds like a horrible shopping centre but is in fact a picturesque promenade of large Georgian houses facing the Thames at Chiswick, blighted only be Heathrow-bound jets thundering past at what sounds like nose-level every two minutes. • Spotted: Chiswick Mall, Hounslow, London, W4, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brentford and Isleworth
“Crown Security Systems”, Hounslow: bleak and bland

“Crown Securities”, Stoke: save the Wedgwood!

"Crown Securities" burglar alarm, Stoke-On-Trent • My excuse for this one being blurred is that it was high up on a horrible pub and I just snapped it while I was scurrying past, feeling slightly beleaguered. For, contrary to what it says beneath the only remotely accurate rendition of a non-panto crown I've come across so far, there are no securities in Stoke. At least I was lucky enough to see the fantastic Wedgwood Museum while I was up there, something which should belong to the nation, but whose collection is about to be sold off due to (simplistically) Robert Maxwell's pension fund rapacity, a poorly-drafted law, and some naive financial management by the museum's trustees. Which is tragic and disgraceful, as the Wedgwood Museum is one of the few uplifting and tourist-enticing things in what is, with no disrespect intended, a pretty grim and depleted area. There's a campaign to save the Wedgwood here: it isn't a very good website unfortunately, but anyone concerned about our future heritage should try and wade their way through its templates and send a letter to the relevant MPs it suggests. There's also a billionaire white knight in the offing – Phones4u founder John Caudwell, who grew up in Stoke – but it shouldn't have come to this. Hmmm, Jan 7th and already off topic... and I said I wasn't going to write much this year! • Spotted: Hanley town centre, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Stoke on Trent Central
“Crown Securities”, Stoke: save the Wedgwood!

“Crown”, City of Westminster: weedy update

"Crown" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • I debated whether to put this in, because it's almost the same as yesterday's, and I said my somewhat irascible piece about crowns then. However, at the risk of being hoist by my own anti-History Channel petard, this is a sad example of how burglar alarm design degenerated from its glory days of sturdy metal boxes and proud ridged roundels to the tacky, plasticky nothings that booted them out. Look how much worse this weedy update has worn and faded than yesterday's fine original. And as for the bland corporate font – it doesn't even conjure up the Nazis! And what kind of a sorry excuse for a burglar alarm is that? • Spotted: Horseferry Road, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Crown”, City of Westminster: weedy update

“Crown”, City of Westminster: top tropes

"Crown" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • To me, the fact that a pointy metal hat can represent ultimate power is a troubling reminder of the sheer randomness of human society, but it's not a philosophical point that unduly taxes burglar alarm proprietors, who flock to its received symbolism in droves. This crudely-printed example is a real winner: a crown that looks like it came in a cracker, over a black-letter font bearing the twin tropes of Merrie England and its evil World War II enemies the Nazis, both big-hitting themes in burglar alarm world (which bears more than a passing resemblance to life as portrayed on the History Channel). • Spotted: Strutton Ground, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Crown”, City of Westminster: top tropes

“Kings”, Hackney: what about queens?

"Kings" burglar alarm, Hackney • Not just one, but many monarchs share the crown to this security firm. The name also ties into Christmas 2011's Christian (or, if you want to be pedantic, Judaeo-Christian) theme, due to its no doubt inadvertent reference to the Book of Kings – which does not return the compliment by mentioning burglar alarms. More prosaically, the owner is probably a Mr Kings – or, if he's bad at punctuation, Mr King – a surname which, like so many in the UK, originates from a medieval nickname, this time for one of kingly demeanour. It may be common on burglar alarms simply because, despite its regal pretensions, it's a common name; but it also handily illustrates the ego-puffing old saw that an Englishman's home is his castle, with each regally branded burglar alarm suggesting that the security-conscious homeowner is, in essence, a little monarch. Which is leaves a gap in the market for bell boxes aimed at socially-aspirant women, because I've never come across any labelled Queen. • Spotted: Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Kings”, Hackney: what about queens?

“King Security”, Sheffield: Jason King, that is

"King Security Ltd" burglar alarm, Sheffield • Only a small crown for this bell box, whose design recalls a kind of 1960s retro-grooviness, or possibly cheap frozen food packaging. It somehow makes me think of hirsute '70s TV detective Jason King: that's him, down below. • Spotted: Wicker, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central Above: Peter Wyngarde, plus inadvisable facial hair, as Jason King. Calm down, ladies!
“King Security”, Sheffield: Jason King, that is

“Monarch”, East Grinstead: bring on the crowns

"Monarch Security & Fire" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • Well, amazingly I've managed to keep this blog going for a whole year, and after posting north of 365 different burglar alarms I still have a vast amount yet to feature (don't all cheer at once). So, seeing as it's a leap year, here's to the next 366 alarms. But I do actually have a bit of a life too (just a bit), so from today I've changed the format slightly in order that I don't always have to write so much about each one. I'll still be posting in series of themes, as taxonomy was always the point of this blog, and I'll introduce each theme as before. But, if I haven't got anything to much say about a particular alarm – other than that it fits within the genre – then I'll keep it very brief. I would still appreciate comments however, and will be reading them all avidly and answering where appropriate as I do now. Following on from yesterday's vintage Royale, the first theme of 2012 is "Royalty" – which, as well as being appropriate for this jubilee year, is one of the security world's most enduringly popular tropes, preferably accompanied, as here, by a hefty old crown. Oh, and notice the aptly regal address – not the last I'll feature, as royal British road names aren't exactly rare. • Spotted: Queens Walk, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid 
“Monarch”, East Grinstead: bring on the crowns

“Royale”, Hackney: regal relic

"Royale Security Systems" burglar alarm, Hackney • This looks around the same age as the preceding alarms, but it's so weathered it's hard to decipher the phone number. I could cheat and pretend it has a 3-letter exchange code, but in fact it doesn't: as far as I can make out, it says "Royale Security Systems ?? Benfleet 328?8". Benfleet is in Essex, near the Canvey HQ of the charming old Pearl box I featured recently. This competitor has fared less well, but I can see it once had a classic 1950s-style logo, and I reckon the casing started out as bright blue. I've done a Google search on the firm, but unsurprisingly turned up nothing at all, so any info would be welcome. Tomorrow: the new year ushers in more royal alarms, only somewhat newer than this one. Meanwhile I'll be down in beautiful Bristol, no doubt photographing yet more wonky West Country alarms and being forced to trudge the perimeters of various loser football grounds in recompense. Happy New Year! • Spotted: Shoreditch High Street, Hackney, London, E1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Royale”, Hackney: regal relic

“Sovereign Security”, Frome: security cliches

"Sovereign Security" burglar alarm, Frome • Another abstract piece of chain, unless I am very much mistaken, which is also possibly intended to read as an eye. How Sovereign Security converts to the acronym SSS is unclear, but a crown would have been more appropriate, given the name's royal connotations. All in all an unconnected jumble of popular security cliches: monarchy, locksmithery, vision, and multiples of the letter S. (Acronym update: research shows that the firm started out as Sovereign Security Services, but are now known as Sovereign Fire and Security, and trade from the fascinating – to me, anyway – dockyard hinterlands beneath the M5 motorway at Avonmouth, Bristol. Of course, it's always a fair bet that an unexplained "SS" stands for "Security Systems" – on burglar alarms, at least.) • Spotted: Town centre, Frome, Somerset, BA11, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Somerton and Frome
“Sovereign Security”, Frome: security cliches

“TR Security”, Tower Hamlets: Grimm psychodrama

TR Security burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets, 2010"TR Security Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This isn't a cartoon, it's a psychodrama. It's so troubling it reminds me of a Grimm's fairy tale, or one of those scary 1960s eastern european animations so brilliantly pastiched in The Simpsons as jerky cut-price replacements for Itchy and Scratchy. Let me describe the scene. The sun is high; the shadows small. A stocky, bizarrely-dressed man with the bulbous nose of a heavy drinker sprints across a featureless wasteland. In his white-gloved, malformed hands he cradles an intricate jewelled crown, the sort normally kept in a monarch's treasury. Peering over his shoulder, masked eyes glinting, he grins triumphantly back at the victim of his crown theft: a neat suburban house. A house that is half human. A house that is sobbing. Its sides heave with emotion, its door gapes in horror, its upstairs windows have become scrunched-up eyes squeezing out huge tears. By its side sits a writhing tangle of shadows, so dark it's impossible to work out what lies within. Maybe it's the house's existential despair; maybe it's the burglar's black soul; maybe it's just a bad drawing of a bush. But the moral is clear: don't store a crown in a suburban house, and if you must, then don't leave the front door open when there's a weird-looking bloke hanging round. • Spotted: Commercial Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow TR Security burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets, 2010
“TR Security”, Tower Hamlets: Grimm psychodrama

“Regal”, Wandsworth: a work by Neville Brody?

Regal Security Systems burglar alarm, Wandsworth, 2002"Regal Security Systems" burglar alarm (stickered over RH Alarms), Wandsworth • Oh, the ignominy – having another firm's logo plastered over your head. There's enough of the original design showing to discern that this is an RH Alarms box, the same as yesterday's faded felon – their trademark running figures had clearly become yesterday's men. The Regal design is also pretty ancient by now, and looks inspired by the 1980s works of Neville Brody (famed art director of style mag The Face), especially his 1984 record sleeve for Marilyn's Baby U Left Me. I'm sure the logo font is one of his: it's like a cross between Dome and Typeface 4. I can't find a digital version, but of course any old designer could have photocopied the letters from magazine headlines, as was common practice pre-DTP. However Brody did design things like estate agents' boards in his earlier days, so it's not inconceivable he had a hand in this – and a conspiracy theorist would note that his font foundry, Fuse, ran a design competition on the theme of security in 2005. The only regal connotations of the honeycomb device are royal jelly and queen bees (or, coincidentally, The Royal College of Art, where Neville Brody is now head of graphics), but the conceit of taking an aristocratic title is very common amongst the burglar alarm fraternity – and a theme I shall return to. • Spotted: Battersea Park Road, Wandsworth, London, SW11, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Battersea Regal Security Systems burglar alarm, Wandsworth, 2002
“Regal”, Wandsworth: a work by Neville Brody?