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“Rampart”, Oxford: battlement, surely?

"Rampart" burglar alarm, Oxford • This is more like it, a Rampart showing actual ramparts. Although to be pedantic about it, these look more like battlements or crenellations (aka the blocky bits on the top of castles through which to shoot arrows) whereas ramparts are defensive walls. This looks like quite a recent burglar alarm, but I can't find Rampart on the internet except on business listing sites – usually a sign that a firm doesn't trade any more. • Spotted: Park End Street, Oxford, Oxfordshire, OX1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Oxford East
“Rampart”, Oxford: battlement, surely?

“Rampart Security”, St Albans: un-illustrated

"Rampart Security" burglar alarm, St Albans • Apart from Bastion, this is the only fortification alarm featured that doesn't actually picture its defences. It's pasted over a vintage Shorrock, unless I'm very much mistaken – although of a type I've not featured yet, I'm surprised to discover. • Spotted: Town centre, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of St Albans
“Rampart Security”, St Albans: un-illustrated

“Soundandsafe.com”, Westminster: Martello tower

"Soundandsafe.com" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • This 2002-founded firm is most unusual in having a URL for a name – and that definitely is their name, as it's the same on their website. Dotcoms don't seem to have much to do with olde worlde turrets, but it's a nice logo anyway, like a marooned Martello tower floating in a sea of dark blue plastic. And I bet it lights up at night. • Spotted: Wells Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Soundandsafe.com”, Westminster: Martello tower

“Citadel”, York: Pooterish connection

"Citadel" burglar alarm, York • In the curiously timeless 1892 comic novel Diary of a Nobody, "my own citadel" was how Mr Pooter grandiosely described his home, a modest Victorian villa constantly rattled by passing trains. Not so different from where I found this, then: and if burglar alarms been invented in his day, Mr Pooter would definitely have had one. • Spotted: Bootham Crescent, York, Yorkshire, YO3, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Citadel”, York: Pooterish connection

“August Alarms”, Islington: venerable month

"August Alarms" burglar alarm, Islington • Is that August the eighth month of the Gregorian calendar, or August to rhyme with disgust – meaning venerable? Either way it doesn't matter, because you're not getting past the mammoth portcullis. Or maybe it's an upside-down picket fence. • Spotted: Evershot Road, Islington, London, N4, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
“August Alarms”, Islington: venerable month

“Aztec Solutions”, Bristol: surely a Roman?

"Aztec Solutions" burglar alarm, Bristol • The logo says "Aztec Securities" (which, if Aztec practices were actually followed, would involve ritually ripping out the still-beating hearts of felons), but the designer has surely used clip art of a Roman soldier to illustrate it. This headgear looks strongly like a legionary's plumed helmet with visor and ear guard to me, rather than a pre-Columbian feathered headdress with ear plugs. Either that or Sussex Alarms is portraying an Aztec too. • Spotted: Surrey Street, Bristol, Avon, BS2, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Aztec Solutions”, Bristol: surely a Roman?

“Citadel”, Southwark: ghostly guardian

"Citadel Security Systems" burglar alarm, Southwark • The ghostly guardian on this is so worn out he looks like a marauding mummy or a giant robot (reproduced small), but the name Citadel suggests it's a Roman soldier. And the sounder's nearly as ancient as its source matter. • Spotted: Southwark Bridge Road, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Citadel”, Southwark: ghostly guardian

Nameless Roman soldier alarm, Sheffield: stabby

Nameless burglar alarm with Roman soldier, Sheffield • This is the most violent sounder image I have: an anonymous Roman legionary unashamedly going about a ferocious felon-stabbing – or possibly ritual disembowelling – with a calm, impassive expression on his face. Either he's a robot, a la Westworld, or he's simply a psychopath. Burglars beware! • Spotted: Bank Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central
Nameless Roman soldier alarm, Sheffield: stabby

“Crusader Security (UK) Ltd”, Greenwich: fancy shield

"Crusader Security (UK) Ltd" burglar alarm, Greenwich • Crusaders are slightly at a tangent from knights, as not all crusaders were noble horsemen – the crusades were like a travelling township, with vast crowds of commoners and even women and children tagging along. However, lots of knights were crusaders, and as bloke's got a fancy shield, I'll assume he's one of them. • Spotted: Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London, SE10, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Greenwich and Woolwich
“Crusader Security (UK) Ltd”, Greenwich: fancy shield

“Knight Security”, Newquay: psychedelic crash

"Knight Security" burglar alarm, Newquay  • Unlike yesterday's un-knightly seaside monogram, this one at least has a shield and some heraldic-looking "black letter" script. That's an illustration of a psychedelic VW camper van bumping into it, by the way – an unlikely crash caused by its location on a surf shop fascia in the not-very-paradisical surfie hub of Newquay. • Spotted: Bank Street, Newquay, Cornwall, TR7, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of St. Austell and Newquay
“Knight Security”, Newquay: psychedelic crash

“Knight Installations”, Dorking: thrusting sword

"Knight Installations" burglar alarm, Dorking • This is brilliant – 1970s type framing a triumphal image of a knight in ceremonial armour, complete with plumed full-face visor, cloaked warhorse, St George's Cross jerkin and massive thrusting sword. So very Dorking, and so much more effective than a guard dog. • Spotted: Town centre, Dorking, Surrey, RH4, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Mole Valley
“Knight Installations”, Dorking: thrusting sword

“Premier Security Ltd”, Westminster: chillax

"Premier Security Ltd" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • Phew, what a lot of different Premier burglar alarms there are. Finally, a whizzy silver one with faux futuristic lettering from the UK Prime Minister's home turf of Westminster. A new breed of Conservative premier, perhaps – the pseudo-modern kind that likes to chillax and LOL. • Spotted: Newman Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Premier Security Ltd”, Westminster: chillax

“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

“Pizza Express”, Camden: pizza mind

"Pizza Express" burglar alarm, Camden • Even if the burglar alarm engineer moves slowly you'll get a meal pretty fast with this company. I'm rather impressed that Pizza Express have had customised sounders printed up for all their branches, and in posh-looking silver (well, chrome, or plastic or something) too. Not many firms do that. Pity you can see the unpainted patch behind it where they had a presumably non-pizza-branded sounder before. • Spotted: Parkway, Camden, London, NW1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Pizza Express”, Camden: pizza mind

“Sprint”, Camden: city speeding

"Sprint Security Systems" burglar alarm, Camden • If your burglar alarm goes off you need help fast, so it's not surprising that swiftness is a popular security theme. This superb vintage Sprint, which undoubtedly rang rather than beeping like a reversing lorry on steroids, is very similar to the Arlescourt sounder here. It's ideally placed above a matching shop selling some vintage sprinters of a different type, namely Italian scooters (see below). And even the logo looks like it's speeding. • Spotted: Clerkenwell Road, Camden, London, EC1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras [caption id="attachment_11728" align="alignnone" width="472"] A vintage Sprint alarm above some classic sprinters[/caption]
“Sprint”, Camden: city speeding

“Vaico International”, Tower Hamlets: global gloves

"Vaico International" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • These hands look like they're literally trying to put the world to rights on this sadly leaning sounder. There' a picture of a more recent Vaico sounder here – hands still tightly cupping their proud globe of internationalness – and the 1997-founded firm's official website is here, though it doesn't offer any explanation of the cryptic name. Globes are a very popular theme, and one I'll return to soon. These are the last disembodied hands for now: tomorrow, alarms relating to swiftness. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Vaico International”, Tower Hamlets: global gloves

“Arlescourt Security”, Camden: hand of glory

"Arlescourt Security" burglar alarm, Camden • Severed hands are a popular image on burglar alarms, and quite apart from reminding thieves what appendage they might lose under sharia law, it's an ancient symbol with many connotations. The heraldic hand on this fine vintage sounder is grimly gripping a key in the manner of the Lady of the Lake brandishing Excalibur from her watery depths. It recalls the folkloric "Hand of Glory" – the dried and pickled mitt of a hanged felon, believed in medieval Europe to have the power to unlock any door it came across. There are grisly if contested examples in Whitby and Walsall museums, and a couple of mentions in Harry Potter. It's all most appropriate for a firm whose name sounds like something straight out of Camelot. • Spotted: New Oxford Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras [caption id="attachment_11694" align="alignnone" width="472" caption="Hands of Glory: left, a medieval version, and right, Whitby Museum's example"][/caption]
“Arlescourt Security”, Camden: hand of glory

“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

“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

“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

“Chevron Alarms”, Windsor: arrows over arrows

"Chevron Alarms Protects" burglar alarm, Windsor • Finally, to end this "arrow" theme, what purports to be a chevron, but to my mind also passes as a double arrow, certainly in the typographical sense. And if you check out the wall I found it on (below), you'll see there's an architectural arrow directly above it. This is the last arrow for now: tomorrow, the rather less warlike theme of botanical sounders. • Spotted: St Leonards Road, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4, England, 2009 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Windsor [caption id="attachment_11144" align="alignnone" width="472" caption="Hey, there's an arrow above the arrow!"][/caption]
“Chevron Alarms”, Windsor: arrows over arrows

“Len Gunstone”, Bath: three arrows in one

"Len Gunstone Bath" burglar alarm, Bath • Three arrows in one – or perhaps an arrow piercing a triangular rock – for Len Gunstone of Bath, whose sounder is taking a bath in Gay Street (no chortling at the back there). Oh, I've just realised – it's also a naive monogram comprised of a very angular "L" (outer black triangle) and "G" (inner yellow triangle), with an arrow in the centre. Clever – but unreadable. Googling Len Gunstone throws up a 2012 website for a firm called BSA, aka Bath Security Alarms, whose logo is a cube inexplicably emerging from (or dropping into) a hole. Not one I've come across yet in the plastic. • Spotted: Gay Street, Bath, Avon, BA1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bath
“Len Gunstone”, Bath: three arrows in one

“Hoffman Security”, Lambeth: symbol of chaos

"Hoffman Security" burglar alarm, Lambeth • I've already featured a white Hoffman box here, when I compared its arrow logo to the Dad's Army credits. But the symbol also has more ancient origins: the central four-armed cross is a heraldic mark called the cross barbee, also known as the arrow cross, denoting movement in all directions. In the 1930s it was adopted by the Hungarian fascists, and has since become associated with extremist right wing groups such as the American Nationalist movement. The logo bears an even stronger resemblance to the eight-pointed "Symbol of Chaos" (definitely not something needed on a burglar alarm), a design first doodled  the early 1960s by the writer Michael Moorcock in for his Elric of Melniboné stories and later taken up by role playing games, comic books, heavy metal groups and the like. All connotations which were totally unknown to Hoffman, I'm sure, who in fact based this logo on the joystick controls of a CCTV system. • Spotted: Brixton Road, Lambeth, London SW9, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Dulwich and West Norwood [caption id="attachment_11252" align="alignnone" width="472"] Left, the cross barbee or arrow cross; right, the "symbol of chaos"[/caption]
“Hoffman Security”, Lambeth: symbol of chaos

“Yale”, Tower Hamlets: humdrum wedge

"Yale" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Now come a few odd-shaped sounders for which I can't find the correct geometrical terms (because there probably aren't any). The hulking contraption above is the dummy box companion to Yale's round sounder here – though as I commented there, if that is a gleaming Gouda, this is a mere humdrum wedge of Cheddar. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Yale”, Tower Hamlets: humdrum wedge

“Abel”, Islington: glowing logo

"Abel" burglar alarm, Islington • A lot of pioneering British alarm companies were swallowed up by multinationals in the 1980s, but veteran firm Abel – like Banham, featured yesterday – endure. They were formed in 1965, and according to their website are now the UK's largest privately owned providers of electronic security systems. They certainly update their boxes regularly – compare and contrast the old red effort featured here with their current look, above. Utterly proprietary, it's a slim silver metal square with a die-cut logo that's illuminated from within, as shown glowing at dusk below. Slick! • Spotted: Upper Street, Islington, London, N1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury
“Abel”, Islington: glowing logo

“Banham Security”, Southwark”: silver-grilled

"Banham Security" burglar alarm, Southwark • Before Banham developed their shield-shaped sounder they used all sorts of box styles, but this is the only shiny silver-grilled one I've found, and in fact the only example of this type of box I've ever seen. It's on an attractive old building in Bermondsey Street called the Time and Talents Settlement, home to a charity founded by local women in 1887 and still going strong today, offering locals "volunteering opportunities and numerous groups and projects to participate in". Maybe I'll go round and volunteer to run a burglar alarm-spotting course. • Spotted: Bermondsey Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Banham Security”, Southwark”: silver-grilled

“AM Security Group”, Brighton: swelling sides

"AM Security Group" burglar alarm, Brighton • Not a super-rare case style, but unusual and striking nevertheless with its swelling sides. You see these mounted horizontally too, and with the right design and colourway such boxes can look stylish – though this isn't one of them. The busy logo manages to cram in references to time, a bit of a key at the end of the 'M', and radiating from the 'A' is a spiky circle that suggests a bandsaw or a gun sight, but is probably meant to be soundwaves. • Spotted: Old Steine, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown
“AM Security Group”, Brighton: swelling sides

“Next Gen”, Hackney: shiny Trekkie plug

"Next Gen Security Systems" burglar alarm, Hackney • Half-way between the Secom and Ambush plugs, though with eight sides rather than six, this is another rarely-seen bell box shape that resembles a giant electrical plug. It would be quite attractive if the logo wasn't so basic, which is a waste of tasteful chrome. In its futuristicness, it can't help but conjure up Captain Picard and his chums from Star Trek: The Next Generation. In contrast, the Elstree-based firm's website has a brilliant stock photo of an old school "pantomime burglar" wearing black hat, gloves and goggles. Make it so! • Spotted: Hoxton Square, Hackney, London, N1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Next Gen”, Hackney: shiny Trekkie plug

“Tara”, Kensington: venerable green shield

"Tara" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • Yet another take on the triangle, this venerable shield classifies as "uncommon" because it's used only by divisions of Banham, who must have taken over Tara at some point (they used to have really boring rectangular boxes with a very basic logo). You see many Taras in Kensington & Chelsea, so I liked to imagine the firm was named after some posh filly (eg Palmer Tomkinson) rather then the Scouse for goodbye – this one was even found in Cheval (ie horse) Place. But as pointed out in this comment, the Hill of Tara is an important Irish Neolithic site that was the mythical seat of Ireland's high kings – hence perhaps the green logo, which I'm rather partial to. • Spotted: Cheval Place, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW7, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington
“Tara”, Kensington: venerable green shield

“Chubb”, Sheffield: rusty equilateral triangle

"Chubb" burglar alarm, Sheffield • After yesterday's unusual pentagonal Chubb, here's the classic equilateral triangle version. Not an uncommon design per se as there are lots of Chubbs around, but it's a one-firm shape, and the sharp-cornererd metal vintage ones like this are starting to rust into oblivion, normally from the bottom edge up – maybe the design causes rainwater  to collect there. • Spotted: Bank Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central
“Chubb”, Sheffield: rusty equilateral triangle

“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

“Crime Cure”, Bristol: vintage inverted pocket

"Crime Cure" burglar alarm, Bristol • This is an absolutely classic sounder, and it makes me chuckle every time I see it. I found it at eye level in downown Bristol, the city that never stops giving great burglar alarm gifts. Everything about it, from my shallow design-based point of view, is good: it's vintage metal; an unusual "inverted pocket" shape (though I have found one other); rare use of green; amusing name in bold modernist type; and a complex piece of heraldry incorporating eight popular security tropes in a tiny space, namely lions, keys, an eye, a padlock, some bars, a shield, a castle, and even a motto – "protect and deter". An internet search on "crime cure security" throws up firms in business listings all over the place, including Bristol, but as none have their own websites I'm assuming they're all defunct.• Spotted: High Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Crime Cure”, Bristol: vintage inverted pocket

“Young & Young”, Chelsea: shorn-off circle

"Young & Young" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • Attempting to proceed logically through the uncommon shapes, yesterday's deep drum leads on to a nice silver box that's almost a circle, except for a bit shorn off the base. Whether there's a proper geometrical name for such a construct, I have no idea – "arc" doesn't sound right, so maybe it's a massive "segment". Whatever it's called, Young & Young are the only example of it I've come across on a sounder so far. • Spotted: Cadogan Street, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chelsea and Fulham
“Young & Young”, Chelsea: shorn-off circle

“Micromark”, Herne Bay: sixties sci-fi DIY mystery

"Micromark Security Systems" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • I've included this splendid space-age case in the "retro-futurism" category because it's a top piece of 1960s-style sci-fi design, and Micro-Anything, like Anything-Tronic, conjures up the early days of integrated circuits (and yes, that does include Microsoft). I've seen quite a few of these around – they seem to be used by Micromark only – and they're always still in pristine condition. I'd assumed that this was because they were some high-end piece of kit, but having done an image search on Micromark, I've discovered they target the cheap DIY market, as explained in this Guardian article and on this spammy-looking Security System Guide. This and several other Micromark systems (none of which I've spotted in the wild) crop up listed on Amazon and various price comparison sites, but they generally seem to be unavailable, so I'll leave it to the experts to tell me more about this mysterious brand. Bizarrely, there's a YouTube video here of some lad setting up a Micromark alarm on his wardrobe – I doubt that his mother was impressed. • Spotted: Station Road, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Micromark”, Herne Bay: sixties sci-fi DIY mystery

“Nu-Tron”, Camden: on the old-tron Scala Cinema

"Nu-Tron Security Ltd" burglar alarm, Camden • Like yesterday's rare round-topped Nu-Tron (aka Old-Tron) sounder, this newer version again has an unusual box shape, though one that's much more commonly seen as it's popular with many other companies too. I know nothing of it inner workings, but in superficial design terms it's a good choice: the rounded grey N matches the rounded grey sounder nicely. I found it on the old Scala cinema at Kings Cross, which is now a pool hall; and it looks like someone's scraped a circular sticker off the centre of it, suggesting it's been maintained. • Spotted: Kings Cross Bridge, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Nu-Tron”, Camden: on the old-tron Scala Cinema

“Micro”, Camden: a classic of computer design

"Micro Security Systems" burglar alarm, Camden • This is a classic piece of retro-futurism - it's called Micro, and is illustrated with a microchip, that pinnacle of modernity. The typeface is a Letraset classic called Data 70 (the name's a good clue to its vintage), created by British designer Bob Newman in 1970. It's one of many such that came out around that time, based on the machine-readable MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition) text you can still find in chequebooks, which despite the banks' best efforts are still with us. Since their brief moment of trendiness, such "computer fonts" have lived on eternally in the worlds of sci-fi and naffness, though it's the kind of naffness that graphic designers always retain a fondness for. For any typophiles perusing this, there's a really interesting thread about the origins of Data 70-style letterforms here. Of more interest to security professionals will be that the Micro lives above an extremely well-preserved vintage AFA sounder, with all the attendant wiring intact – it's pictured below. Much more fascinating than  the origins of a dodgy old computer font (not). • Spotted: New Oxford Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Micro”, Camden: a classic of computer design

“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

“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”, 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

“AFA”, Chelsea: ancient takeover?

"AFA Burglar Alarm" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • This AFA alarm has the same phone number – CHA 2888 – as yesterday's Auto Call, and was found on the same bit of posh Chelsea wall, just round the corner from Harrods. Although like most AFA boxes it hasn't worn well, the design looks more recent than Auto Call's, so I assume AFA took them over. There's a really interesting comments thread about the company's long history below this AFA alarm, but it doesn't mention Auto Call, so if anyone knows more I'd be interested to hear it. • Spotted: Beauchamp Place, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington
“AFA”, Chelsea: ancient takeover?

“Summa”, Aylesbury: theological treatise

"Summa" burglar alarm, Aylesbury • There's a learned Christian reference here, possibly unintentional: the Summa Theologica, aka the Summa, was a major religious tract by 13th-century philosopher Thomas Aquinas, hugely influential despite being unfinished. In it, he attempted to sum up all of Christian theology to that date, and present five infallible arguments for the existence of God. In broader terms, Summa could refer to a summary of anything; but the mountain-like triangle suggests it is meant in its Latin sense, "summit". Unless it's a weird masonic symbol representing the Holy Trinity, which I very much doubt. • Spotted: Cambridge Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Aylesbury
“Summa”, Aylesbury: theological treatise

“Abel”, East Grinstead: biblical victim

"Abel Alarm" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • According to the Bible, Abel was the world's first murder victim, being the son of Adam and Eve who was slain by his brother Cain. This firm's memorable name is definitely a reference to the event, as recorded in this article I came across by an Abel employee. In it, the company's boss Peter Eyre explains that when he launched the firm in 1965, he wanted a name that would sit atop all alphabetical lists. "So obviously I was looking at AA," he is quoted as saying, "but that had already gone! Therefore, I picked up the Oxford Dictionary and came across Abel – who was the slayer of Cain. I thought that it was good to have a religious connection. In addition, the name Abel is at the top of the list…A followed by B. It infers and sounds like an alarm bell – A Bell! To sum up we as a company are very able…so that was it, I got it registered." So the name is Abel, able, alphabetical and a bell – which is all very clever, but maybe the interview was wrongly transcribed, because Abel didn't kill Cain, he was killed by him, becoming an eternal symbol of martyrdom. Whatever, my favourite placing of this biblical classic is above a door in Church Walk, shown below. • Spotted: Middle Row, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid Above: an old example of the biblical alarm aptly placed in Church Walk, Rugby
“Abel”, East Grinstead: biblical victim

“Grange”, Old Amersham: monkish manor

"Grange" burglar alarm, Old Amersham • Home, home on the grange – a popular place name in England, and originally denoting the farming estate of a monastery, of which there were once squillions. Henry VIII seized them all at the dissolution of the monasteries, then doled out the land to his noble chums, hence the term's continuing association with manors and country houses today. Posh Old Amersham is exactly the kind of place you'd associate with burglar alarm-studded Tudorbethan granges, though this excellent ancient design is probably too modern for local tastes. • Spotted: Town centre, Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire, HP7, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chesham and Amersham
“Grange”, Old Amersham: monkish manor

“Hewes”, Newham: Jesus fish

"Hewes Security" burglar alarm, Newham • The branding of 40-year-old Essex-based firm Hewes includes an unambiguous "ichthys"  symbol, based on a Greek acronym early Christians used to recognise each other. Also known as the "Jesus Fish", its incorporation into logos is more common in the super-religious US, where enthusiastic use by fundamentalists and creationists has spawned a slew of parodies, such as a Darwin Fish, with legs; and a Trek Fish, which resembles the Starship Enterprise. In the UK, the sign is less controversial; in my experience, it's most often seen on the bumper of aged Nissan cars being erratically driven by hat-wearing folk, no doubt on the premise that Jesus will save them. • Spotted: High Street, Newham, London, E15, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham Above: alternate bumper stickers – a Darwin Fish, left; and a Trek Fish, right.
“Hewes”, Newham: Jesus fish

“Wimpey”, Chelsea: not the burger chain

"Wimpey Security Systems" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • I came across this at Chelsea Reach, en route to explore the exclusive but tacky and depressing semi-gated community that is Chelsea Harbour (whose creation cut off to non-residential car traffic a very useful public road running behind the riverfront). It's an excellent old Eurobell sounder with a long-obsolete Wimpey logo – look closely, and there's a flash of lightning in the "C" of "Security". Presumably it hails from George Wimpey, who merged with Taylor Woodrow to form Taylor Wimpey PLC in 2007, but was the UK's largest private house builder in the 1970s – the same era as this alarm. • Spotted: Uverdale Road, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW10, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chelsea and Fulham
“Wimpey”, Chelsea: not the burger chain

“Pearl Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: faded attraction

"Pearl Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • What a beautiful old alarm, its evocative name recalling the faded fairground attractions of its home towns of Canvey and Southend, and matching perfectly the seaside-blue wall and decaying Dream Land awning. I've been parking beneath this sounder for years, as it's usually the nearest free spot to the Whitechapel Gallery, yet I never noticed it till the other week. The building's gaudy paint job is quite recent, so maybe that's what finally made it stand out. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Pearl Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: faded attraction

“Alarm Systems Torquay”, Bath: hydrant sign

"Alarm Systems Torquay" burglar alarm, Bath • This looks like the miniaturised eye from yesterday's odd alarm, staring out from one of those yellow H signs signifying a fire hydrant (see below). It could be a black magic symbol, but it's more likely to be a monogram – saying H, OH, HI or even OHI – but with a sounder this old there's no info to be found. • Spotted: George Street, Bath, Avon, BA1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bath Above: a fire hydrant sign (photo by Bishty)
“Alarm Systems Torquay”, Bath: hydrant sign

“Falcon World Class Security”, Liverpool: stunted

"Falcon World Class Security" burglar alarm, Liverpool • I reckon this is a relative of the Liverpool falcon in a circular niche featured here, athough it's a slightly different design. "World Class Security" – I like the grandiloquence of such ambition. And it purports to be a registered trademark, too! Because there must be loads of security firms keen to rip off a logo that looks like a stunted griffin. • Spotted: Town centre, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Liverpool Riverside
“Falcon World Class Security”, Liverpool: stunted

“Eagle”, Birchington-on-Sea: clumsy king

"Eagle" burglar alarm, Birchington-on-Sea • The eagle has been seen as king of the birds and a messenger of the gods since ancient times (although there's a bit of a crossover with falcons), and an Apollo Eagle has already featured in the mythology section. This design has an evocative 1960s feel, apt for sleepy Birchington-on-Sea, though the clumsily-drawn eagle looks less like a lord of the air than a delivery owl fresh from Hogwarts. I've also found a version that includes the word "Canterbury", so perhaps that's where it actually comes from. • Spotted: Town centre, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, CT7, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Eagle”, Birchington-on-Sea: clumsy king

“BAT”, Birmingham: bloodsucker

"BAT Alarm" burglar alarm, Birmingham • I know this acronym stands for Birmingham Alarm Technicians, because I found the head office (pictured below) – but I still prefer to think of it as representing an actual noun-type bat. Not a baseball or cricket bat, useful though they would be for the deflection of unruly interlopers; but the flying, squeaking, sharp-fanged kind. Trained squadrons of hunter vampire bats could locate swag-toting Johhny Burglar by sound alone, disorient him with their hideous flapping leathery wings, give him a nasty blood-sucking bite, and pass on a dose of rabies for good measure. Result! • Spotted: Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, West Midlands, B18, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Birmingham Ladywood Above: a real vampire bat (photo by Barry Mansell)
“BAT”, Birmingham: bloodsucker

“Armadillo”, Brighton: abject but armoured

"Armadillo Brighton" burglar alarm, Brighton • I love this alarm. A completely abject-looking armadillo, mournfully slouching above some stylish compressed type. (Being an insect-eater, it is possibly pining for the fly on the Ape alarm, below.) I've found another one in Aylesbury, which is newer than this and uses the Cooper Black font above the same illustration; and a quick web search reveals that the doughty little fellow represents Armadillo Safeguards, a 25-year-old firm based in Sutton, Surrey. Comical though it may be, unlike many burglar alarm creatures the armadillo at least has some relevance to the security trade, as it rolls up into an impenetrable armoured ball when threatened – although its guardian credentials are somewhat hampered by terrible eyesight. It falls into what I think of as the "defensive" rather than "offensive" category of anti-crime identity – somewhat abstract distinctions I shall explore further one day.• Spotted: Eastern Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown Above: A real armadillo (photo by www.birdphotos.com)
“Armadillo”, Brighton: abject but armoured

“AFA”, Birmingham: poo-brown paint

"AFA Security Systems" burglar alarm, Birmingham • A mournful corner of one of Birmingham's many surviving brutalist quarters, housing a poor old AFA alarm that's not only rusty, but effaced with poo-brown paint. Hardly worth protecting with pigeon spikes you'd think, but there they are in all their grimy glory, adding yet another layer of dolour to the scene. • Spotted: Suffolk Street Queensway, Birmingham, West Midlands, B5, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Birmingham Ladywood
“AFA”, Birmingham: poo-brown paint

“Essex”, Tower Hamlets: netted

"Essex Security Services" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This seasidey sunbleached sounder looks like it's been caught in a fishing net. In fact it's another example of pigeon netting, necessary because the alarm resides in the same torrential guano zone as these revolting ADTs. The lovely old Essex logo looks like it pre-dates the chain-link example of a few days ago, but as you can see from the comment below I'm wrong: one of the company's head honchos tells me it's a later design. It's more attractive, but it's also a lot more violent: three immense curved sabres, enough to see off burglars and arial arse bombers alike. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Essex”, Tower Hamlets: netted

“Wilkin Alarms”, Sheffield: yellow peril

"Wilkin Alarms Sheffield" burglar alarm, Sheffield • The common theme of all these poo-struck alarms is the colour yellow, which perhaps in some mysterious way loosens birdy bowels. This virulent lemon example really does look like a piece of contemporary art. Which I realise isn't a great advertisement for contemporary art. • Spotted: North Church Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central
“Wilkin Alarms”, Sheffield: yellow peril

“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

“Jensen Security Systems”, Cambridge: wheel clamp

"Jensen Security Systems" burglar alarm, Cambridge • Today I proceed from keys to locks, which on burglar alarms are usually presented as keyholes or padlocks. This vintage sounder combines both, with two Js reflected round a keyhole to create a padlock-cum-shield. Sadly the logo looks more like a chunky wheel clamp, which despite sharing a name with 1970s super-car the Jensen Interceptor and (sort of) top racing car driver Jenson Button, isn't the world's most reassuring image. • Spotted: Regent Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Jensen Security Systems”, Cambridge: wheel clamp

“Key Alarms”, Old Coulsdon: urine-hued simplicity

"Key Alarms" burglar alarm, Old Coulsdon • We now move from visual keys to verbal keys, and this is as basic as it gets: the ragged urine-hued simplicity of Key Alarms, yet another aged specimen from the half-timbered land of superannuated security systems that is Old Coulsdon. • Spotted: Coulsdon Road, Old Coulsdon, Surrey, CR5, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Croydon South
“Key Alarms”, Old Coulsdon: urine-hued simplicity

“Peter Weare Ltd”, Dorking: new town verbiage

"Peter Weare Ltd" burglar alarm, Dorking • This is the most wordy alarm in my collection, stopping just short of giving the engineer's shoe size. Slotted within the essay is a key, and even that contains verbiage, with a "W" decorating the handle. The key itself is of the grand medieval type associated with castles and cathedrals – in poignant contrast to its distinctly humdrum place of origin, the unlovely post-war "new town" of Crawley. That's not to say Crawley is without interest: there's someone posting as ~notes and also *notes on Flickr who takes fascinating architectural photos of the area, including old burglar alarms such as Protectall• Spotted: Town centre, Dorking, Surrey, RH4, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Mole Valley
“Peter Weare Ltd”, Dorking: new town verbiage

“Hurleys Security”, Herne Bay: antarctic beach hut

"Hurleys Security" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • A seasidey logo for a seaside town, with jaunty 1950s-style lettering and what appears to be a beach hut in the key's handle. Some people may think of starlet Elizabeth Hurley when they see this logo, and some may wonder where the apostrophe has gone. I however am reminded of Frank Hurley, the brilliant Australian cinematographer who accompanied Ernest Shackleton's catastrophic 1914 expedition to the South Pole (although after a heroic journey Shackleton, unlike Captain Scott, brought all his men back alive). Hurley recorded all the stunning images of icy strife that help keep the legend alive today, and basically invented the Antarctic documentary – along the way being confined in various snow-bound shacks not unlike the one on the alarm. • Spotted: William Street, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Hurleys Security”, Herne Bay: antarctic beach hut

“Chiswick Security”, Hackney: hackneyed device

"Chiswick Security" burglar alarm, Hackney • Another key with an initial in its handle, though much cruder than yesterday's elegant example. The zig-zag notches on its blade suggest that, like the other keys featured so far, it is for opening a pin-tumbler cylinder lock, typical of house front doors. Inspired by 4,000-year-old wooden devices from ancient Egypt, the definitive cylinder lock was patented by Linus Yale Junior in 1861 and remains little changed to this day – a design even older than this alarm. • Spotted: Clifton Street, Hackney, London, EC2, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Chiswick Security”, Hackney: hackneyed device

“SDT Securities”, Dorking: awkward acronym

"SDT Securities" burglar alarm, Dorking • Another alarm featuring a literal depiction of a key, this time with an awkward unexplained acronym squeezed in. I like the way the screw caps are popping off and casting their own little shadows – they look like tiny alien eyes. I featured a wide-angle shot of this device in the "Beautiful Decay" category – it's on a wire-swathed wall that's even more olde worlde than the alarm. But that's Dorking for you. • Spotted: Town centre, Dorking, Surrey, RH4, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Mole Valley
“SDT Securities”, Dorking: awkward acronym

“Keymaster”, Exeter: double whammy

"Keymaster" burglar alarm, Exeter • After the flights of fantasy of my previous subject, mythological alarms, this week's theme comes bang down to earth with that most literal of security tropes, the lock and key. Although the vast majority of front doors still rely on this combination for security – as opposed to key cards or number pads, let alone anything more futuristic – alluding to locksmithery on burglar alarms has long fallen from fashion, which means most featuring this ancient trade are pleasingly vintage (although not quite dating back 4,000 years to the original Egyptian wooden locks). This is the only example I've found that refers to a key in both name and image (and one inside the other, too) – a fine retro double whammy. • Spotted: Town centre, Exeter, Devon, EX1, England, 2009 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Exeter
“Keymaster”, Exeter: double whammy

“Apollo Eagle”, Tower Hamlets: moon lander

"Apollo Eagle" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This vintage sun-like yellow sounder is a great match for uber-deity Apollo, the powerful Greco-Roman god of the sun. Worshipped far and wide in the ancient world, Apollo was closely associated with light, music, medicine, poetry and much else, but wasn't linked with eagles until mere mortals headed for the moon (property of his sister, Artemis) a couple of millennia later. In 1961, NASA manager Abe Silverstein deliberately referenced the Greek god when he named the US space program Apollo; and on 20 July 1969 Apollo 11's lunar module Eagle finally deposited humans on the moon's surface, hence the immortal phrase "the Eagle has landed". Which may be the source of this space race-era alarm's name, though more prosaically, it's probably the result of a merger between two companies called Apollo and Eagle. • Spotted: The Oval, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Above: When Apollo met Eagle on the moon. Left: a Roman statue of Apollo (c.150 AD) from the Ny Carlsberg Glypotek, Copenhagen. Middle: Buzz Aldrin with moon lander Eagle on the lunar surface. Right: the Apollo 11 insignia, complete with moon-landing eagle.
“Apollo Eagle”, Tower Hamlets: moon lander

“AFA Minerva EMI”, Lambeth: warrior woman

"AFA Minerva EMI" burglar alarm, Lambeth • This is one of only three burglar alarms I've found featuring women, the others being Siren and Liberty. Minerva was the multi-talented pan-Italian goddess of poetry, medicine, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic and music, but primarily of wisdom. Only in Rome was she considered, like her Greek prototype Athena, a goddess of war – an idea the Roman Empire exported, hence her regular appearance sporting helmet and spear, and her suitability for burglar alarms. In Britain she was conflated with Bath's local deity Sulis, and the famous thermal baths there are dedicated to her. Britain also has Western Europe's only Athena shrine remaining in situ, an extremely worn structure carved into the side of a quarry near Chester. Mythology apart, I'm interested in the big red drum, which is also associated with Thorn, on whom I wrote a corporate history here. I know Thorn were absorbed by EMI, who clearly took over AFA Minerva too. But though I've seen vintage sounders saying simply AFA, I've never seen one saying AFA Minerva without the EMI at the bottom, or a standalone Minerva alarm. I'd be interested to know some more about the histories of AFA and Minerva – perhaps one of the burglar alarm fraternity can shed some light on this. • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall Above: Images of Minerva – warlike, wise, and popular in Britain. Left: a no-nonsense, helmet-toting Minerva from the destroyed city of Herculanum, near Pompeii. Above right: head of Sulis Minerva found in 1727 in Bath, and now displayed at the Roman Baths there. Below right: Minerva's very worn-out shrine in Edgar's Field, Handbridge, near Chester.
“AFA Minerva EMI”, Lambeth: warrior woman

“Orion Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: myth meets Pac-Man

"Orion Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This naive but multi-layered design recalls two mythical figures: Orion and Pac-Man. Ostensibly a monogram comprising an O and an A, it's probably meant to represent a pyramid in a circular night sky with a crescent moon overhead. Apart from the night sky, it's hard to see how this connects with the Greek hero Orion, a giant hunter blinded for raping a princess, healed by the sun, then killed by a scorpion and turned into a constellation by Zeus. There are few reliable descriptions of Orion, but we know he wasn't a big black blob. However, the design also looks disturbingly like a Pac-Man with a winking eye, chomping his way down the alarm. Developed in Japan in 1979 and originally called Pakkuman, it's fair to say that the genre-launching yellow-and-black ghost-munching video game has achieved legendary status. The name is based on paku-paku, Japanese slang for lip-smacking eating (equivalent to "nom-nom-nom"), and the fact that the avatar looks like a part-eaten pizza is no coincidence, because according to its inventor Tōru Iwatani, that's what it's based on. This is the second Pac-Man-like alarm I've featured: the first was JB-Eye, and no doubt the game was a formative entertainment for both designers. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Above: Orion v Pac-Man. Left: Orion and his constellation by astronomer Johannes Hevelius from his celestial catalogue "Uranographia" (1690). Right: fashionably geek Pac-Man t-shirt available from Worm Sign designs.
“Orion Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: myth meets Pac-Man

“Titan Alarms”, Cirencester: total defeat

"Titan Alarms" burglar alarm, Cirencester • These days "titanic" suggests immense, but in Greek mythology the Titans were a primordial race of super-deities, children of the supreme earth goddess Gaia. There was a soap opera's worth of them, with second-gen Atlas being the best-known today, but most remaining rather obscure. This was a result of the decade-long War of the Titans, in which they were comprehensively overthrown – both physically and reputationally – by a bunch of younger gods, the Zeus-led Olympians. The huge Giants, also children of Gaia, rebelled against the Olympians but lost; and later tales mixed up Giants and Titans, leading to the word's current connotations of size and strength. So, given that they suffered total, humiliating defeat and never recovered, being protected by a Titan may not be as useful as it sounds. • Spotted: Town centre, Cirencester, Gloucestershire, GL7, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cotswolds Above: the Titans being overthrown in "Fall of the Titans" (c.1637-8) by Peter Paul Rubens from the Musée Royaux des Beaux Arts, Brussels.
“Titan Alarms”, Cirencester: total defeat

“Phoenix Security Doncaster”, Chelsea: rare old bird

"Phoenix Security Doncaster" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • A very old Phoenix, which – if it accords with legend – is the only one of its kind, and will soon set itself on fire. In the Greco-Assyrian myth which gives this device its name, the crimson-plumed firebird is the sole representative of its species, and lives for 500 years. When it feels itself getting old, it climbs onto a fragrant DIY pyre of frankinsence and myrrh, faces the sun and bursts exuberantly into flame, soaring reborn from the ashes. In some versions it's a small grub that emerges from the ashes, which after three days turns into a new phoenix; which, in further variants, carries the embalmed ashes of its parent to an altar in the Egyptian sun-worshipping city of Heliopolis. Although the estimable Greek historian Herodotus was bluntly sceptical about much of this fanciful tale, its clear parallels with Biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus made it a hit with early Catholic artists, hence its inclusion in European iconography, and eventually on burglar alarms. Generally considered benevolent despite their fierce looks, phoenixes are today a metaphor for anything that renews, such as a "phoenix firm" which declares bankruptcy, dumps its debt obligations, and restarts anew – hopefully not the fate of Phoenix Security. • Spotted: Cadogan Street, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chelsea and Fulham Above: Some even older phoenixes. Top row: during and after resurrection, from the beautiful 12th century Aberdeen Bestiary. Bottom left: Coptic Egyptian stone phoenix from the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. Bottom right: a magnificent printed phoenix from Friedrich Justin Bertuch's stunningly-illustrated educational partwork "Bilderbuch für Kinder" (1790-1830).
“Phoenix Security Doncaster”, Chelsea: rare old bird

“WSS Alarms”, Glasgow: not the Waffen SS

"WSS Alarms" burglar alarm, Glasgow • I rather like this naive typographic design, which – presumably by accident – stands for Waffen SS and is even in a classic Nazi colourway. The thorny circle of Ws looks like a ring of razor wire protecting the SS, and – although it clearly dates from the days before the World Wide Web caught on – lends it a subliminal online feel. It also bars the logo from my "basic" category, as it requires a certain amount of graphic know-how to put type on a circle, no matter how low-tech the end result. • Spotted: Merkland Street, Partick, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G11, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow North
“WSS Alarms”, Glasgow: not the Waffen SS

“Blitz Security Group”, Southwark: shiny bomber

"Blitz Security Group" burglar alarm, Southwark • After taking yesterday's incredibly blurred photo of a Blitz alarm in 2002, I was always on the lookout for other examples, but never ran across any. When I decided to start writing this blog, I became so desperate to shoot a sharper version that I made a pilgrimage all the way back to the Surrey shopping parade where I'd originally found it, but the Blitz alarm was there no more. And despite an extensive exploration of the surrounding Old Coulsdon area, during which I snapped lots of other good vintage burglar alarms (to the understandable suspicion of several locals), I still came home Blitz-less. I assumed it was a small Surrey firm that had gone out of business many years ago, hence my failure to find one. So imagine my surprise when, a few weeks ago, I spotted a shiny new Blitz alarm just a short stroll from my home, in a road I visit practically every day. A brief recce turned up several more in the Waterloo area, which scuppers my theory that Blitz alarms only appeal in Conservative boroughs; but note that London SE1 is divided between Labour Lambeth and Lib-Dem Southwark, and so far I have only found Blitzes on the Lib-Dem side of the street – and they are in coalition with the Tories, after all. Blitz Security Alarms, meanwhile, have been upgraded to Blitz Security Group, and acquired a smart new design featuring the ever-trendy Cooper Black font. It's a very nice logo – even if it does conjure up images of a merciless fascist bombing campaign. • Spotted: King's Bench Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Blitz Security Group”, Southwark: shiny bomber

“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

“Bluebird Securities”, Lewisham: a picturesque nest

"Bluebird Securities Crayford" burglar alarm, Lewisham • How picturesque: a fine yellow bluebird from Crayford, tangled in a nest of wires on the Ladywell Road. The old-style line drawing is far more characterful than yesterday's slick photographic bluebird, even though it could represent any blue or yellow bird really – a jay say, or a yellowhammer. Yellowhammer – now that would be a good name for an alarm. • Spotted: Ladywell Road, Lewisham, London, SE13, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford
“Bluebird Securities”, Lewisham: a picturesque nest

“Frome Security Centre”, Frome: a duck enchained

"Frome Security Centre" burglar alarm, Frome • Frome (pronounced Froome) is an arty little Somerset wool town that was once a hotbed of non-conformism, and is full of interesting old architecture including a plethora of quirky churches and chapels. So, rather than have a fierce hawk or a wise owl on their burglar alarms, they have this distinctly non-conformist design – a wacky cartoon duck tethered to what looks like the ball-cock from a lavatory cistern, but is in fact a convict's ball and chain. Why the duck needs to be imprisoned, or what it has to do with preventing crime, is impossible to guess. It's just one of those whimsical West Country things. • Spotted: Town centre, Frome, Somerset, BA11, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Somerton and Frome
“Frome Security Centre”, Frome: a duck enchained

“OTS”, Tower Hamlets: an owl on a key – how sweet!

"OTS" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • A chubby owl sitting on a giant key in front of a crescent moon – how sweet is this? The initials OTS  are branded on the owl's breast and below its feet, but there's no clue as to what this unexplained acronym stands for. The firm itself is equally mysterious; all I can discover is that it was once based in the Northumberland Park area of Tottenham, London, and by the noughties had merged with a Chingford company called Davenheath. The 081 number dates it as pre-1995, and there's also a later 0181 numbered version which must be pre-2000. On this latter iteration, the key, moon and chest tattoo are gone, and the owl is simply perched on a big OTS logo. It was probably meant to look more sophisticated – but, charmingly, it still looks just as much like a children's book illustration. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“OTS”, Tower Hamlets: an owl on a key – how sweet!

“Yale”, Cambridge: an Ivy League pairing

"Yale" burglar alarm, Cambridge • This Ivy League pairing of a Yale in Cambridge is the last "Modernist" alarm for now. I'd intended to write up this theme with brief musings on stylish shapes and clean design, and instead got drawn into researching the fates of a tangled web of venerable old firms which became the global trading chips of late 20th-century multinationals. And it's not just the traditional UK brands that have suffered this fate: Yale is the US equivalent of Chubb, a storied name dating back over 150 years that's now in the hands of an overseas corporation. The company was started in around 1840 in Newport, New York, by Linus Yale Senior, an innovative locksmith of Welsh extraction. The family firm's future was assured by his brilliant son Linus Junior, who invented both the standard combination lock, and – inspired by a 4,000-year-old Egyptian design – the Yale cylinder lock, used to this day. I can't find much hard fact on the internet, but based on various Wikipedia citations and Yale's own multifarious sites, the timeline is briefly thus. Yale soon became Yale & Towne – Henry R Towne being a business partner – and expanded worldwide. Yale UK was founded in 1929 in Willenhall in the West Midlands, and in 1987 their US owner First City Industries Inc sold them off for $400m to Valor PLC, a long-established gas fire manufacturer from Birmingham (the UK Brum, despite the US spelling of Valor), becoming Yale & Valor. After various other corporate machinations, they were bought in 1991 by Williams Holdings, a 1980s conglomerate (a lumpy word for a lumpy business model) formed to snaffle up underperforming businesses; in 1997 they also snaffled up Chubb, so for a brief period the two historic names were conglomerate bedfellows. In 2000 Williams, now a trendy PLC, sold the Yale Lock Company to Finno-Swedish security giant Assa Abloy. Confusingly, Chubb's locks division also ended up at Assa Abloy, where they're now sold under the Union brand (another historic locksmith that got swallowed up); while Chubb's alarms division ended up at US behemoth United Technologies Corporation, where it's used as the umbrella brand for all the other security firms UTC has acquired. Assa Abloy still use the Yale brand, and – to return to my original idea of writing sweet nothings about design and styling – have created a rather beautiful identity. This shiny round yellow siren with its cleverly incorporated blue strobe is the best new design I've seen for years, its sophisticated curves suggesting a Modernist sculpture (Brancusi, perhaps). It's a true successor to the Modern Alarms "jelly mould" which kicked off this Modernist category, and a vast improvement on the fussy faceted gem-shapes of the last decade. There's also a wedge-shaped version of this Yale, which functions as a dummy box; it's OK, but – like a boring chunk of Cheddar to the siren's gleaming golden Gouda – far less attractive. Cheddar's actually tastier than Gouda, but we'll let that pass. • Spotted: Regent Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Yale”, Cambridge: an Ivy League pairing

“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

“Chubb”, Hackney: the oldest brand of all

"Chubb" burglar alarm, Hackney • It's ironic that I selected this iconic blue Chubb box for its Modernist design, as it turns out to be the oldest brand name of all; and also, sadly, a blueprint for the decline of British industry at the hands of high finance over the last 40 years. The company was launched in 1804 by Charles Chubb, who started out selling ships' ironmongery, but moved into security when his brother Jeremiah invented a new type of lock. After gaining a Royal Warrant in the 1830s, the Chubb family enjoyed five generations of global growth, providing security for everything from the Crown Jewels to the Koh-i-Noor diamond to Winston Churchill's wartime papers. By the end of the 1960s the Wolverhampton-based company had swallowed up Rely-A-Bell and many other smaller rivals and was a respected bastion of British industry. According to ex-employee David Ibbs, the rot set in during the 1970s when Chubb damaged its finances by acquiring – under government urging – the failing Gross cash register business. And so, as the era of deregulation dawned, the weakened Chubb shifted from being a proud family-run manufacturer providing careers for life, to being the financial plaything of City moguls driven only by the bottom line. Starting with a misguided acquisition by Racal in 1984, Chubb demerged and remerged with other multinationals several times, "downsizing" (ie making skilled and loyal staff redundant) each time, and gradually splitting apart so that locks, safes and alarms ended up with different owners. Today, the alarms division is just a small part of American conglomerate United Technologies Corporation (UTC), while the other pieces are owned by Swedish multinationals. Chubb's last family boss, George Charles Hayter Chubb, aka the third Baron Hayter, was a highly-regarded Lords cross-bencher who tried to block Maggie Thatcher's destruction of the GLC, and once chaired the Design Council. Presumably his interest in design led to the 1970s introduction of this minimalist blue branding with its striking triangular box, known for obvious reasons as the "Delta". This powerful design has survived Chubb's many changes of ownership and lives on still, its current incarnation being a chunky-looking round-cornered Delta in posh navy plastic. In earlier times there was also a square blue metal box bearing the same logo, and I recently spotted a distressing new pentagonal variation. The example pictured here is a classic old metal Delta with faded paint and sharp corners, possibly dating from the 1980s. The (intentionally?) "chubby" initial C is, apparently, based on the front view of a mortice lock – a last poignant link to the glory days of the original Chubb brothers and their once-great British company. • Spotted: Kings Wharf, Hackney, London, N1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Chubb”, Hackney: the oldest brand of all

“Modern Alarms”, East Grinstead: faded optimism

"Modern Alarms" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • This week I'm looking at what I think of as Modernist burglar alarms: those with an unusual rigour of form and branding. They are few in number, and seem mainly to have been bespoke designs for big companies. They also tend to be old, with minimalist design styles recalling the 1970s – before the sloppy post-modernism of the 1980s kicked in, and before purist geometrical boxes were supplanted by fiddly plastic faceting. So where else to start but with Modern Alarms, whose superb name and logo date from the mid-1970s, when the firm's boss, the late Dennis Smith, had it rebranded from Modern Automatic Alarms. It is housed in the classic Eurobell "coke cap" case, designed by Colin Marsh for the Middlesex-based company Scantronic, who specialised in mid- to high-end security equipment (thanks to Richard Wilson for that info). Modern Alarms went on to use a variety of other cases, but they were always of simple form, solid yellow, and with the logo unchanged and well-placed. There are plenty of examples still to be found around London (and doubtless elsewhere), but Modern they are no more: most are sadly faded and effaced, often resulting in wonderful architectural compositions lent a rueful irony by the sunny optimism of that now-decaying name. • Spotted: High Street, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Modern Alarms”, East Grinstead: faded optimism

“Strident Bell”, Marlow: found art object

"Strident Bell" burglar alarm, Marlow • My final bell-themed alarm for now is the superbly-named vintage device which starred as centrepiece of my recent post on red alarms. I've got no idea how old it is; the typeface looks 1930s, but it's more likely to date from the 1950s. Its owners must be fond of it, because at some point someone has repainted the red case, carefully avoiding the lettering – and taking it straight into the realm of the found art object. • Spotted: Riverside area, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, SL7, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Beaconsfield
“Strident Bell”, Marlow: found art object

“Bell”, Borehamwood: not the Tory spin-doctor

"Bell" burglar alarm, Borehamwood • I'm not saying the town where I found this is boring, but there's a reason they call it Borehamwood. It's also a true blue Tory stronghold, which seems to be de rigeur for areas boasting these smart blue-and-silver Bell alarms. For that reason they always make me think of famous Tory spin-doctor Tim Bell, now Baron Bell of Belgravia (really), a founding member of the Conservatives' 1979 election-winning ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, and the man credited with creating Margaret Thatcher's deep-voiced, iron-haired, pussy-bowed image. But even though he once led a company called Chime Communications, Lord Bell doesn't really have a connection with Bell alarms – apart from the fact that you will find them both in Belgravia, which is good enough for me. • Spotted: Shenley Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Hertsmere
“Bell”, Borehamwood: not the Tory spin-doctor

“Bell Intruder Alarms”, Aylesbury: Quasimodo

"Bell Intruder Alarms" burglar alarm, Aylesbury • This is presumably an updated version of yesterday's design, now divested of its awkward diagonal logo, though the clip-art church bell remains. In reality, alarm bells are the circular kind that get hammered at high speed, so it's not a strictly accurate portrayal; imagine how much more lively our streets would be if there really was a tiny church bell in every burglar alarm, being tolled by a mini-hunchback swinging on a rope. • Spotted: Cambridge Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Aylesbury
“Bell Intruder Alarms”, Aylesbury: Quasimodo

Black alarms: a rare and ageing crew

Burglar alarm colours: black • Despite their smart and sinister appearance, black alarms are rare, so I’ve cheated a bit here. The Rely-a-Bell and Granley boxes probably started out as blue – but they’re so ancient they’ve faded to an indeterminate monochrome. A few more here are blackened by rust, while another is simply black plastic innards. As for the Homeguard alarm, it’s been carefully painted black to match some proud homeowner’s Tudorbethan gables. So apart from The Alarm Company’s newish matt-black effort, which appears to be channeling the logo of a 1970s mobile disco, and the aptly-named Squire, which was found on a half-timbered clothes shop, this is a rather sorry and ageing crew. • Below: a motley selection of alarms passing for black
Black alarms: a rare and ageing crew

Silver alarms: the next generation

Burglar alarm colours: silver • Although I've come across the odd silvery box over the years, 2010 saw a notable trend for super-shiny silver alarms – epitomised by the aptly-named Young & Young and Next Gen examples. Long-standing firms are constantly upgrading to this look, for instance East Tower, whose clip-art Tower Bridge logo has advanced from kitsch to swish by swapping coloured plastic for a mirror finish; or Briar, whose bonkers monogram, a B made of padlocks, looks quite sensible now it's reflective. Silver is one of the few box styles that sits well with slick architecture – but if alarms were all to become this tasteful, I'd soon lose interest in documenting them. • Below: a selection of silver boxes, old and new
Silver alarms: the next generation

Green alarms: a strangely unpopular hue

Burglar alarm colours: green • Apart from the brilliant old Computa Guard and the boring modern Classic, I have found no predominantly green boxes at all, and it's a rare colour in burglar alarm graphics in general (perhaps a niche for avant-garde security firms to exploit). Thus, out of necessity, this small selection includes not just self-coloured designs, but those which use even a modicum of green in their livery. • Below: some of the few alarms I've found which use a bit of green in their design
Green alarms: a strangely unpopular hue

Blue alarms: faded relics and fancy concepts

Burglar alarm colours: blue • Once, blue was the colour of burglar alarm relics – sun-bleached metal boxes that had seen better days, their simple modernist shapes faded to evocative shades of seaside turquoise. But recently a brash Tory navy has been hitting the scene, shiny and strident in complex moulded plastic, boasting fancy concepts such as First Choice and Eurotech. Call me old-fashioned, but I know which kind of blue I prefer. • Below: a selection of old-style light blue alarms (top) and new-style dark blue alarms (bottom)
Blue alarms: faded relics and fancy concepts

Yellow alarms: eggy orange meets ripe urine

Burglar alarm colours: yellow • From eggy orange to ripe urine, yellow is the perfect burglar alarm colour, evoking both sunset and sirens. Yellow boxes attract bold graphics, and cluster at both extremes of the design spectrum: genuinely professional (Yale, Modern); and charmingly naive (most of the rest). The most profuse of all yellow alarms, ADT, combines both approaches – the box is a smart modernist hexagon, while the logo is a strangely naive monogram. ADT have stuck to the same design for years, so they must like it. • Below: a selection of yellow alarms, from modern to manky
Yellow alarms: eggy orange meets ripe urine

Red alarms: more ancient than modern

Burglar alarm colours: red • The most numerous of single-coloured  boxes – more ancient than modern – red alarms sport a lively array of vernacular graphics, usually detailed in white, because not much else shows up on them. It makes them look like fire alarms, and matches those traditional British icons the pillar box and the telephone box (government ministers have red boxes too – what is it with the UK and red boxes?). However, all three types of box are rapidly disappearing: the post and telephone varieties into oblivion, while red alarms tend to be replaced by less strident hues such as white, silver and dark blue – in much the same way as car colours change fashion. I prefer a strident bell, myself. • Below: a selection of vintage red and white alarms
Red alarms: more ancient than modern

Colour photo-essay: A burglar alarm rainbow

This week, an exploration of popular burglar alarm hues – there’s lots of red, yellow and blue, but why so little green? Burglar alarm rainbow Most burglar alarms are a mish-mash of colours on white, but a significant minority are predominantly single-hued, which is far more striking. This week I'm exploring these "found monochromes" (to put it poncily) – starting with a spectrum of the most common. As with other domestic goods, from curtains to cars, burglar alarm colours go in and out of fashion: over the years there's been lots of red, yellow and blue, with silver coming up fast on the inside, but very little green or black – and I've yet to find an orange, pink or purple box. Over the next few days I'll take a closer look at each part of the spectrum. • Above, from top: red, yellow, green, blue, silver, black…
Colour photo-essay: A burglar alarm rainbow

“CIA”, Emsworth: secret service snooper

CIA burglar alarm, Emsworth, 2003"CIA" burglar alarm, Emsworth, 2003 • Here's another CIA alarm, more happily composed than yesterday's diagonal effort. Apart from being placed too high up to focus on sharply, everything about CIA alarms is utterly classic: the strident colour, the tabloid typography, the furtive figure. And, of course, being named after one of the world's most notorious spy organisations. Though, assuming the real CIA is not in the UK burglar alarm business, what this memorable acronym actually stands for remains unexplained. • Spotted: Seagull Lane, Emsworth, Hampshire, PO10, England, 2003 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Havant CIA burglar alarm, Emsworth, 2003
“CIA”, Emsworth: secret service snooper