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Pentagon

Initial, Camden, 2004

“Initial” burglar alarm, Camden • Initial without the Shorrock – there’s one with the Shorrock (and some bird poo) here. • Spotted: Covent Garden area, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2004 • […]
Initial, Camden, 2004

“Chubb”, Camden: pentagonal imposter

"Chubb" burglar alarm, Camden • A pentagonal rather than triangular Chubb – unusual! You normally only see this shape on Initial and Shorrock alarms, so I'm guessing that when Chubb took them over they retained a few legacy sounders. The screw in the C totally ruins the effect, unfortunately. • Spotted: Charlotte Street, Camden, London, W1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Chubb”, Camden: pentagonal imposter

“Initial Shorrock”, Herne Bay: seaside smear

"Initial Shorrock" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • This nasty little smear was found in the seaside town of Herne Bay, so it may have emanated from the rear of a seagull rather than a pigeon – it does look like it was dropped at speed from a great height. Not the world's most exciting piece of birdshit, but one with a smidgeon of irony, as Initial are a vast industrial cleaning company. • Spotted: Mortimer Street, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Initial Shorrock”, Herne Bay: seaside smear

“Shorrock”, Camden: red star of Blackburn

"Shorrock" burglar alarm, Camden • I've always been attracted by this subtly stylish pentagon with its flaring red sun, but most examples have faded to blank-faced anonymity. Originally called Shorrock Develoments, the firm was founded in 1962 by Stanley Shorrock, said by some to have invented the first UK burglar alarm (though there had been several UK alarm firms before this, so I'm not sure if that's true). I could find virtually nothing about Stanley Shorrock on the internet, despite an obsessive search; I think he ended up a Sir, and probably started life in Blackburn, which is where he based the firm. Shorrock is an old local place name, cropping up regularly for hundreds of years around the Lancashire town, where there's a Shorrock Lane to this day. It's also a common surname in the area; in fact the current Labour councillor for Shadsworth, the ward where Shorrock's factory was based, is called Jim Shorrock – coincidence? I did turn up a textile machinery designer from Blackburn called Stanley Shorrock, who in the 1950s co-developed the first British tufted carpet manufacturing machine with Brian Mercer, but I have no idea if that's the alarm firm's founder – the dates tie in, so it's entirely possible. The known facts are less intriguing, being – as with all these big security firms – mainly a string of post-1980s mergers and acquisitions. Shorrock, under the mysterious but successful Stanley, expanded thoughout the 1960s to become a large and respected firm. They designed and manufactured their own security systems, building two factories in the Blackburn suburb of Shadsworth in the early 1970s; the blue metal Shorrock boxes with faded white lettering still occasionally seen perhaps date from this era. In 1985 Shorrock listed on the stock exchange, and in 1986 they were snapped up by BET PLC, a UK conglomerate once called British Electric Traction and better known for its bus operations. This must have led to the era of the fine pentagonal box shown here, its hint of the launderette harking back to the days when modernist graphics were considered suitable for everything from electronics to detergent. In fact that spiky star is a twin of the once-familiar logo of Rediffusion, a TV company owned by BET until the mid-1980s. In 1996, BET got taken over in a hostile bid by Rentokil Initial PLC, the unholy alliance of a pest-control firm and an industrial launderer (perhaps they were attracted by the washaday-style logo). At this point their alarms became branded Initial Shorrock, and by 2000 just Initial; they retained the chic pentagons, but the graphics became an undistinguished 90s affair, still much in evidence on the high street today. After several years of grumbles about under-investment and poor management, the division was bought out in 2007 by serial security-firm-gobbler UTC, a US leviathan on a roll after their 2003 aquisition of Chubb alarms. By 2010 all UTC's security brands had been rationalised under the venerable blue triangle of Chubb Systems (perhaps that's why I've recently seen a pentagonal Chubb) – and so Initial Shorrock was no more. Maybe one day I'll find out what happened to Stanley Shorrock, too. • Spotted: Covent Garden area, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Shorrock”, Camden: red star of Blackburn

“Shock”, Bristol: is this dog sticker a Banksy?

"Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006"Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006 • This charming dog-stickered burglar alarm is my all time favourite – and, just possibly, a Banksy. At first I thought those were butterflies above the dreamy labrador's head, but they're coins dropping into a slot: it's a drawing of an old-fashioned guide dog collection box, cleverly positioned on a Shorrock burglar alarm to make it read "Shock". So, why do I think it's a Banksy? Firstly, the style and pose of the dog's head – that confident line and slightly wistful, upwards-tilted look is something I associate with a lot of his figures. Secondly, I found it in Bristol, which is where Banksy is from. Thirdly, Banksy often depicts dogs. And fourthly – well, there is no fourth, but I've just always just half-thought it was a Banksy, and enjoyed the mystery. I've now discovered that there was spate of these photocopied dog stickers in 2006, all with their bodies redrawn in strange ways (this is the least mutated I've found) – and one of them did have a Banksy logo on it. However these other versions looked amateur, and any fool can xerox a Banksy logo, so the jury remains out. It's an interesting story, on which I'll post a separate visual essay shortly. In the meantime, I still don't know if this is a Banksy, but it's certainly a one-off, and I'm glad I spotted it. (Update: I later discovered it wasn't a Banksy – the full story is here.) • Spotted: Clifton area, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West "Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006
“Shock”, Bristol: is this dog sticker a Banksy?