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ADT, Hackney, 2006

“ADT” burglar alarm, Hackney • Now for some monograms, ie the easy logo solution of joining initials together in various arty / random ways. Here’s a pretty famous one – […]
ADT, Hackney, 2006

Modern Alarms, Camden: algae

Modern Alarms "Modern Alarms" burglar alarm, Camden • As you can see, I'm posting a run of these clear-capped Eurobells at the moment. Not only does this have the logo both above and below the lid, there's a circuit board and an algae farm sandwiched between them, which is somewhat distracting. • Spotted: Frognal Way, Camden, London, NW3, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn
Modern Alarms, Camden: algae

Hawk, Exeter: grumpy

Hawk MarketSt Exeter Devon DSCN4093_800 "Hawk" burglar alarm, Exeter • What a grumpy-looking bird! I found it on a fish shop (well, aquarium supplies), thus doubling its relevance to this update of the creatures theme. • Spotted: Market Street, Exeter, Devon, EX1, England, 2013 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Exeter
Hawk, Exeter: grumpy

MAS, Liverpool: cathedral

MAS Formby "MAS Formby" burglar alarm, Liverpool • This is on Liverpool Cathedral (the C of E one) - there's a distance shot of it here. Given it nearly reads Mass,  the Catholic one might have been more apt. • Spotted: Town centre, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Liverpool Riverside
MAS, Liverpool: cathedral

Exco, Falmouth: river

Exco "Exco" burglar alarm, Falmouth • Nice name, based on  the river Exe, I assume. There's another Exco here, with a more flamboyant logo. • Spotted: Berkeley Vale, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Truro and Falmouth
Exco, Falmouth: river

“Prime”, Newcastle: dog food

Prime NewBridgeSt Newcastle nr NE1 2ST 30176_800 "Prime Security Systems" burglar alarm, Newcastle upon Tyne • I've been to Newcastle several times, so am shocked to find this is the first (and indeed only) burglar alarm I've ever photographed there. And this from someone who has even photographed sounders in Hull and Hereford (which, let's face it, are not exactly on Tripadvisor's top 10 city breaks list). So, just as well that Prime suggests excellence. Or dog food. • Spotted: New Bridge Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, NE1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Newcastle upon Tyne East
“Prime”, Newcastle: dog food

“AT Alarms”, Derby: clunky

AT Alarms "AT Alarms" burglar alarm, Derby • Called AT in the logo, and ATA in the monogram, with neither explained (Alarm Technology, perhaps). I wonder if the  clunky ATA is meant to conjure up the scales of justice? Because it looks more like a trestle table. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South
“AT Alarms”, Derby: clunky

“ASG Security”, Falmouth: sacrilege

ASG Security "ASG Security" burglar alarm, Falmouth • Oh sacrilege. You can just about see, underneath this sticker, the superb original Alarm Service Group design, which I eulogise here. Somebody went and replaced it with this awkward three-letter monogram, which remains unexplained, despite repeating the initials twice. • Spotted: Killigrew Street, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Truro and Falmouth
“ASG Security”, Falmouth: sacrilege

“Tamar”, Exeter: gridlocked

"Tamar Security" burglar alarm, Exeter • Ah, the eternally gridlocked Tamar Bridge, slender link across he Tamar between Devon and Cornwall. It's not named after the Jewish temptress of Biblical legend (more's the pity), but an ancient British word meaning something like "dark flowing", as is the Thames. • Spotted: Town centre, Exeter, Devon, EX1, England, 2009 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Exeter Above: the real Tamar Bridge
“Tamar”, Exeter: gridlocked

“WEC Alarms”, Nottingham: cheery acronym

"WEC Alarms" burglar alarm, Nottingham • An cheery yellow unexplained acronym livening up a nice green Georgian house, though not exactly "in keeping". The building is some kind of defunct costume museum, opposite Nottingham's stupid castle, so a shield seems appropriate. I learn from their website that WEC were established in 1981 as a subsidiary of Woodthorpe Electrical Contractors, who were formed in 1963 – hence the name. • Spotted: Castle Gate, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Nottingham South

“WEC Alarms”, Nottingham: cheery acronym

“Shield Alarms”, Sheffield: twingo bingo

"Shield Alarms" burglar alarm, Sheffield • And so – ta da – we make a slight return to yellow shields. I wonder if this is any relative of the brace of vintage yellow Shields I published a week ago? It has the same typeface as this old Shield Security System sounder. All these shield sounders are kind of like burglar alarm Twingo Bingo. • Spotted: North Church Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central
“Shield Alarms”, Sheffield: twingo bingo

“Shield Burglar Alarm”, Camden: personal fortification

"Shield Burglar Alarm" burglar alarm, Camden • So now I move from the fortification of buildings to the fortification of humans, with the huge burglar alarm category of shields. This sounder does (or rather, did) what it says on the can. There's a side view below for the real "spotters" out there. • Spotted: Bleeding Heart Yard, Camden, London, EC1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Shield Burglar Alarm”, Camden: personal fortification

“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

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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

“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

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