Skip to content

Botanic

“HSS Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: yeoman

"HSS Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • HSS used to be based in Harlow, so I reckon HSS stands for Harlow Security Systems. Aptly for a sounder located in Tower Hamlets, it pictures a Beefeater - aka a Yeoman of the Guard, which is apparently an incorrect term for Yeoman Warder, ie a geezer who ceremonially "guards" the Tower of London. That looks like a vicious weapon he's carrying, but in fact it's just a decorative staff. Tomorrow however, the theme is indeed weapons. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“HSS Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: yeoman

“Amco”, Camden: military badge

"Amco" burglar alarm, Camden • I suppose AMCO stands for Alarm Monitoring Co. But what of the Harry Potterish legend "Superna petamus", which doesn't, as the petals in the middle would suggest, mean "always flowering"? Well, the slightly different "Superna Petimus" means "We seek higher things", and is the motto of RAF Cranwell, where RAF officers are trained. This spelling, I think, means "let us seek higher things", and though AMCO's logo doesn't look like RAF Cranwell's coat of arms, it does resemble a British military badge. So endeth a super-category started several weeks ago, namely militia. And now, as Monty Python famously said, for something completely different... • Spotted: Goodge Place, Camden, London, W1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Amco”, Camden: military badge

“Gardner”, Gloucester: wrong kind of gardener

"Gardner Security" burglar alarm, Gloucester • Finally, a gardener to keep up with all these botanical sounders – though one with poor spelling, and in possession of a lion. I assumed it was this Gardner Security, who lasted from 1981 to 2010, then became subsumed by Christie Intruder Alarms, the 42-year-old firm behind the famous CIA "crouching man" sounders. But a comment below tells me that this is a different Gardner Security, of Gloucester – who sold to Modern in the 1990s, thus ending up as part of ADT So now you know. • Spotted: Town centre, Gloucester, Gloucestershire, GL1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Gloucester
“Gardner”, Gloucester: wrong kind of gardener

“Longcross Security”, Bristol: scribble trees

"Longcross Security" burglar alarm, Bristol • Yet more woodlands, this time in pictures rather than words. Longcross Security, founded 2001, is a big firm with a very corporate-looking website, so I guess the tree silhouettes are some branding agency's attempt at portraying longevity and stability – it's a very popular device. The firm's head office is in Ashstead, Surrey, so at least that's got part of a tree in its name. The species on the sounder all look different, but I'm not horticultural enough to know what types are represented, or if there's an ash present – maybe they're just "scribble" trees. • Spotted: Town centre, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Longcross Security”, Bristol: scribble trees

“Wychwood Security”, Cirencester: ex-wood

"Wychwood Security" burglar alarm, Cirencester • Spookily-named Wychwood, which sounds like something out of Harry Potter, was once a royal hunting forest covering much of West Oxfordshire. It was also once an Oxfordshire security firm, but Wychwood Security Services is nowadays part of Advance Vision Group, aka AVG, a 1989-founded firm whose sounders I'm not currently familiar with. As for Wychwood, their WSS monogram was a bit more fancy than Woodland Security Systems’, but it still majors on an ill-advised "SS”. • Spotted: Town centre, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cotswolds
“Wychwood Security”, Cirencester: ex-wood

“Bushwood Security”, Westminster: tangled thicket

"Bushwood Security" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • Named after both a bush and a wood, this is very botanical, in name if not design. At first I assumed it was titled after the Bushwood area of Leytonstone, near to Epping Forest – an enclave once described as a "hidden gem" by Time Out's property section. But web research suggests Bushwood were a Wandsworth firm who later changed their name to Barking Dog Security (not from Barking, ha ha), whose excellent dog-based sounder I've not featured yet. And now the URL www.bushwoodsecurity.co.uk leads to a sub-site of Crown Security Systems (the one I featured blurrily here), so maybe Crown bought out the original Bushwood. It's all very confusing. • Spotted: Berners Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Bushwood Security”, Westminster: tangled thicket

“Woodlands”, Westminster: ancient wood

"Woodlands Security Systems Ltd" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • Another bosky firm, Kent-based Woodlands was dissolved in 2005, the year I photographed their sounder (there's a red light at the far right, so it must be still working). Their HQ was in Erith, near to ancient Oxleas Wood and the 89 acre Woodlands Farm (a charitable trust open to all) – which is possibly the source of their name. However their WSS monogram logo isn't very clear, leading the sounder to suggest it belongs to an organisation called "SS" – never a very good look. • Spotted: Oxford Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Woodlands”, Westminster: ancient wood

“Woodside”, Westminster: bosky cops

"Woodside" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • This is a classic of what I think of as "police" design – alarms with blue-and-white graphics recalling, whether intentionally or not, the corporate identity of the UK's constabulary; in this case, the checks that adorn their cars and hatbands. It is at odds with the bucolic name of Woodside, perhaps chosen because this Finchley-based firm is surrounded by so many woods. No, I never associated Margaret Thatcher's old manor with woodlands either – but look on Google maps and you'll see Big Wood, Little Wood, Cherry Tree Wood, Highgate Wood, Queen's Wood and Coldfall Wood all in the vicinity. Who knew Finchley was so bosky? • Spotted: Horseferry Road, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Woodside”, Westminster: bosky cops

“Trencherwood New Homes”, Southwark: old oak

"Trencherwood New Homes" burglar alarm, Southwark • Inexplicably, the house I found this on was "new" in around 1800, which was before even Berkshire-based property firm Trencherwood New Homes’ era, though they're part of history too, now. There's a picture on Flickr of a bronze ram statue Trencherwood commissioned in 1989 (seriously), which has a comment saying they sold up in 1996 and were eventually acquired by Barratt Developments PLC in 2007. Their heyday seems to have been the 1980s, which would be commensurate with this Eurobell – note the famed "off centre" screw, as recently discussed here. It's decorated with a sprig of gently decaying oak leaves and acorns, strengthening my suspicion that all sounders with acorns on are for defunct firms. • Spotted: Bermondsey Square, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Liberal constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Trencherwood New Homes”, Southwark: old oak

“Oakpark Alarms”, Aylesbury: long-lived oak

"Oakpark Alarms" burglar alarm, Aylesbury • Another long-lived oak, Winslow-based Oakpark Alarms was founded in 1985. Although their website still wishes visitors a happy christmas 2010, one of the two tweets on their minimal Twitter page wishes the world a happy new 2012, so I guess they are still around (if not very good at updating web things). I was hoping Oakpark would turn out to be some leafy Buckinghamshire landmark – a historic park, or a posh golf club, say – but that appears not to be the case, so I guess it's just a random name. Their base of Winslow does have some burglar-related fame, however: it's the setting of Terence Rattigan's famous play "The Winslow Boy", based on the true story of an Edwardian naval cadet wrongly convicted of theft. • Spotted: Cambridge Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Aylesbury
“Oakpark Alarms”, Aylesbury: long-lived oak

“Oakland Security”, Beckenham: protective tree

"Oakland Security" burglar alarm, Beckenham • From burglar alarm acorns grow security system oaks, and unlike the defunct nut-based companies of the last two days, Horsham-based Oakland Security Systems, founded in 1995, is still going strong. I just learned an interesting oak fact on Wikipedia: the reason window blinds often have acorn-shaped pulls is because having an acorn on your windowsill is meant to protect against lightning. Not for any scientific reason, but because in ancient Norse myth, Thor sheltered from a thunderstorm under an oak tree. Which was pretty stupid of him, really – and I thought he was meant to be the thunder god anyway. But maybe that extrapolates to acorns and oaks being seen as protective on burglar alarms – it's certainly quite a popular motif. • Spotted: High Street, Beckenham, Kent, BR3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Beckenham
“Oakland Security”, Beckenham: protective tree

“Acorn Security Alarms”, Bristol: nutty bird

"Acorn Security Alarms" burglar alarm, Bristol • This Acorn was slightly easier to track down than yesterday's, but seems just as defunct. Originally a Gloucestershire firm, its URL www.acornsecurityalarms.co.uk now redirects to Swift Fire & Security, a national company founded in 1982 – which I haven't featured yet, despite it falling within the "arbitrary birds" category. So maybe the swift is a bird that eats nuts. • Spotted: Broad Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Acorn Security Alarms”, Bristol: nutty bird

“Acorn”, Nottingham: nuts no more

"Acorn" burglar alarm, Nottingham • This Acorn drove me nuts researching it. I assume it is the same as the squirrel-adorned Acorn Security Systems here, as the nut is the same. But there are endless security firms called Acorn, most of which seem to be defunct, or at least without websites, and none with the number above. But via the magic of phone codes and Google, I was able to discover that 0602 is a Nottingham area code which in 1995 was replaced with 0115, giving Robin Hood's city eight million (count 'em) phone numbers. A search on the updated version, 0115 927 1632, led me to Acorn Security Systems of Nottingham, who were definitely the purveyors of this sounder, as the number is basically same. A company check reveals they were dissolved in 2001, hence the lack of a web trail. You still see absolutely loads of these sounders around the East Midlands area, so they were obviously a successful firm once – maybe they reached security nirvana, and sold out to ADT. And if you like prowling on Google street view, there's still a fading signboard on their ex-premises here (also shown below). Truly, the internet is eroding our privacy. • Spotted: Castle Gate, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Nottingham South [googlemaps http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source=embed&hl=en&geocode=&q=Alpha+House,+Belgrave+Road,+Nottingham,+United+Kingdom&aq=0&oq=Alpha+house&sll=53.00306,-1.195965&sspn=0.016477,0.045447&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Alpha+House,+Belgrave+Rd,+Nottingham+NG6+8HN,+United+Kingdom&t=m&layer=c&cbll=53.002783,-1.203596&panoid=nGteR8F2JEnZhF3QwT5QFw&cbp=13,179.84,,2,-2.01&ll=52.998166,-1.203604&spn=0.01622,0.040512&z=14&output=svembed&w=472&h=314]
“Acorn”, Nottingham: nuts no more

“Cox Security”, Beckenham: apple in Bowieland

"Cox Security" burglar alarm, Beckenham • Cox - it's an apple, geddit? To me, the logo also looks like a staring eye, which would make it a pun on "the apple of my eye" and thus also qualify it for the "vision" and "monograms" categories. I found a couple of Cox security firms on the internet: Cox Security Solutions Ltd near Milton Keynes, and the wonderfully-named CoxLocks in the Surrey area, which is nearer to Beckenham (which, pathetically, I always associate with David Bowie in his dress-wearing days). But neither has this logo, so it may be some completely different firm. • Spotted: High Street, Beckenham, Kent, BR3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Beckenham [caption id="attachment_11506" align="alignnone" width="472" caption="Left, David Bowie in Beckenham (and a dress); right, a cox apple"][/caption]
“Cox Security”, Beckenham: apple in Bowieland

“Beanacre Alarms”, Frome: rural old bean

"Beanacre Alarms" burglar alarm, Frome • Just what you'd expect to find in the rural West Country, Beanacre is an obviously botanical name, as it sounds like an acre you grow beans on. And sure enough, there is indeed a place in Wiltshire called Beanacre – which is where this elderly alarm emanated from, as this local business site attests. It's not the world's most exciting acre – that's a picture of it, below. • Spotted: Town centre, Frome, Somerset, BA11, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Somerton and Frome [caption id="attachment_11499" align="alignnone" width="472" caption="Welcome to Beanacre. Please drive carefully."][/caption]
“Beanacre Alarms”, Frome: rural old bean

“Thorndon”, Newham: tenuous thorns

"Thorndon Chelmsford" burglar alarm, Newham • Yet another variation on thorns, admittedly rather tenuous – but it's a nice old Eurobell box, and I have to feature these things somewhere! Essex-based Thorndon were formed in 1982, an era this sounder probably dates from – but I've seen plenty of newer ones too. • Spotted: Cooks Road, Newham, London, E15, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham
“Thorndon”, Newham: tenuous thorns

“Thorn”, Lambeth: white spike

"Thorn" burglar alarm, Lambeth • Speaking of thorns, as I was yesterday, here's the real thing – a red rose of a sounder sporting the modernist white spike of Thorn electronics. It's one of several variations on the red drum that have existed over the years, in this case notable for not mentioning either Minerva or EMI – see the comment here for the most comprehensive round-up so far. • Spotted: Hatfields, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Thorn”, Lambeth: white spike

“Briar”, Cambridge: thorny proposition

"Briar" burglar alarm, Cambridge • Ah, Briar with its bonkers B logo – one of my favourites, here featured in its correct botanic context. Though as I've noted before, a rose or some thorns would be a more appropriate logo for this 1983-established Cambridge firm. • Spotted: Hills Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Briar”, Cambridge: thorny proposition

“Cactus Security”, Camden: piercing spikes

"Cactus Security" burglar alarm, Camden • Kent-based Cactus Security specialise in construction sites, so you see a lot of their alarms on scaffolded buidings. The message is clear: you really wouldn't want to scale a structure bristling with piercing spikes. And maybe there's a nod to the wild west in their logo, too... not that I'm suggesting the building industry is inhabited by cowboys. • Spotted: Southampton Place, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Cactus Security”, Camden: piercing spikes

“Ace Security”, St Albans: unlucky clover

"Ace Security" burglar alarm, St Albans • There are loads of firms called Ace: this particular Ace Security is a family firm based in Bedford, whose three-leafed clover is certainly unlucky for the burglar. OK, so it's meant to be an ace of clubs, not a plant: but historically the suit of clubs was also known as clovers or flowers, and is believed to originate from the German suit of acorns, so it's botanical enough. As for luckiness, you'll only find one four-leafed clover for every 10,000 three-lobed specimens plucked, so they're definitely rare. But not as rare as the 56-leaved example allegedly discovered in Japan in 2009 – something to do with nuclear contamination, perhaps. • Spotted: Town centre, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of St Albans
“Ace Security”, St Albans: unlucky clover

“Saffron Security”, Cambridge: posh spice

"Saffron Security" burglar alarm, Cambridge • I love this – it's so genteel, right down to the pink wall. It looks like an illustration from a Victorian seed catalogue, just what you'd expect to find in learned Cambridge. I'm surprised they don't call it by its Latin name (which is Crocus sativus). Saffron is the rarest spice in the world: 90 per cent comes from Iran, but since medieval times the UK has produced small amounts too. It was first cultivated in Cambridgeshire, and nearby Saffron Walden in Essex became so wealthy trading the crop that it was named after it. Saffron Security trades from Saffron Walden too – hence its fragrant, tasty name. • Spotted: Hills Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Saffron Security”, Cambridge: posh spice

“Cherry Security”, Islington: ooh, fruity!

"Cherry Security" burglar alarm, Islington • Plant-based imagery is surprisingly popular with security firms, so this week's theme is botanical alarms – that is, sounders featuring fruit, flowers and trees. And what better way to kick off than with this juicy pair of cherries – an image so loaded with fruity connotations that I'm simply not going there. Instead I'll just note that the sounder is the same unusual design as the ESS box featured here, and that Cherry's website features more flashing emergency lights than the Old Kent Road on a Saturday night. • Spotted: Marlborough Road, Islington, London, N19, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
“Cherry Security”, Islington: ooh, fruity!

“ADT”, Southwark: daisy chain

"ADT" burglar alarms, Southwark • I often find clusters of bell boxes, but they're usually random and mis-matched. However now and then I come across groups of identical sounders arranged into geometrical compositions, which – to use a fine art term – I think of as burglar alarm "multiples". This one takes the biscuit: six plastic daisies with ADT alarms as their centres, dancing across a wide white wall. It was a temporary installation on the side of London's Design Museum in 2005, but I never found out what it was in aid of. I quite liked the mystery, but after 30 seconds on Google I've discovered it was Daisy T from Sweet Dreams Security, "the ADT alarmbox flower attachment [that] transforms your existing alarmbox from dull and dreary to chirpy and cheery". In the mid-noughties the firm, brainchild of ex-graphic designer Matthias Megyeri, made some amazingly cute security products – from a CCTV camera disguised as a cat and butterfly-studded razor wire to teddybear padlocks and heart-shaped chain links (which sounds more like high-end bondage gear than a burglar deterrent). Apparently Megyeri was struck by the bizarre mixture of security and kitsch he saw on London homes, as compared with his native Stuttgart in Germany – especially all the ADT sounders – and set out to combine the two "to change the visual language of security products from depressing to seriously humorous". • Spotted: Shad Thames, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“ADT”, Southwark: daisy chain

“Acorn Security Systems”, Derby: nuts!

"Acorn Security Systems" burglar alarm, Derby • In the absence of a zebra, yak, xenops (a type of bird, fact fans), warthog, vulture, unicorn (because I already did one here), or tapir, the final beast in this alphabetical creature feature is a squirrel, representing Acorn Security Systems (whose acronym would be ASS, like this alarm). To which all I can say is... nuts. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South Above: a real squirrel (photo by Mariappan Jawaharlal)
“Acorn Security Systems”, Derby: nuts!

“Briar”, Cambridge: bonkers but brilliant

"Briar" burglar alarm, Cambridge • Here's a newer version of yesterday's brilliantly bonkers Briar Alarm logo, with the two padlocks joined to make a more convincing B, less keyholey keyholes, and some superfluous streamlines around the edge. The words "Cambridge" and "alarm" have also disappeared, presumably – as discussed in other recent posts – due to the concepts of local offices and humble burglar alarms being considered outmoded by today's high-tech security practitioners (though customers may feel differently). It's still a classic, and as I commented in my essay on silver alarms, this super-shiny box makes even such a patently absurd monogram look stylish. • Spotted: Regent Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Briar”, Cambridge: bonkers but brilliant

“Briar Alarm”, Cambridge: bondage Abba

"Briar Alarm Cambridge" burglar alarm, Cambridge • Bonkers but brilliant: two sideways padlocks making an Abba-esque reflected B. The B stands for Briar, which suggests roses rather than bondage accessories, and could therefore more appropriately have been represented by a thorny B, evoking barbed wire as well as spiky stems. But that wouldn't have been as much fun as this surreal slice of locksmithery. • Spotted: Hills Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Briar Alarm”, Cambridge: bondage Abba

“Thorn”, East Grinstead: prim and proper

"Thorn" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • I've already recounted the tangled corporate history of the modernist Thorn alarms, which you'll find here. This 1970s-designed Thorn is protruding through the twee terracotta tiles of a no doubt historic roof, from which – East Grinstead being a prim and proper kind of place – the proud homeowner has cut a neat circular niche to accommodate their big red anti-burglar device. • Spotted: London Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Thorn”, East Grinstead: prim and proper

“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 establish their date. This is pre-1980s, as it 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, to summarise the red drums' design timeline: those saying simply Thorn are pre-1980s; those branded Thorn EMI are 1979–1994; there is also a version with a substantially different logo saying Thorn Security, presumably from the 1994–1997 post-EMI period; and 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. • Spotted: Town centre, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cotswolds
“Thorn”, Cirencester: reassuring red drum