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Banham, Camden, 2012

“Banham” burglar alarm, Camden • I’ve published lots of white Banham alarms, but here’s the first black one, complete with Dickensian villain. • Spotted: Rugby Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2012 • […]
Banham, Camden, 2012

Cobra, Hackney: yum

Cobra KingslandHiSt nr E8 2PB 70407_800 "Cobra" burglar alarm, Hackney • It's eaten a giant bulb! • Spotted: Kingsland High Street, Hackney, London, E8, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney North and Stoke Newington
Cobra, Hackney: yum

Ivory, Camden: tusker

Ivory MapleSt nr W1T 4BE 70565_800 "Ivory" burglar alarm, Camden • It's a long time since I featured alarms with animals on, and since then I've come across several more sounders featuring wildly improbable guardian beasts. So here's a reboot of the "Crazy Creatures" theme, starting with this magnificent tusker, storming forward to trample intruders to death. • Spotted: Maple Street, Camden, London, W1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
Ivory, Camden: tusker

PC, Stratford-upon-Avon: minimalist

PC HenleySt StratfordUponAvon nr CV37 6PT 20029_800 "PC Security" burglar alarm, Stratford-upon-Avon • Three popular security tropes in one minimalist logo: police and thieves, locksmithery, and of course computers. I think we can leave political correctness out of it.  • Spotted: Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, CV37, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Stratford-on-Avon
PC, Stratford-upon-Avon: minimalist

“i2i Security”, Middlesbrough: geddit?

I2I BridgeStEast Middlesbrough nr TS2 1NW 30101_800 "i2i Security Middlesbrough" burglar alarm, Middlesbrough • There's only one eye so it's Eye 2 I, geddit? If it was Eye 2 Eye, they'd have had an eye on both Is. And if it was I 2 I, it would suggest serious undermanning. Or something. Found above a suitably poetic Lord Byron sign (see below). • Spotted: Bridge Street East, Middlesbrough, Cleveland, TS2, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Middlesbrough I2I BridgeStEast Middlesbrough nr TS2 1NW 30100_1200
“i2i Security”, Middlesbrough: geddit?

“Simply Quality”, Camden: scrolled

Simply Quality Security Systems "Simply Quality Security Systems" burglar alarm, Camden • I love this – the utterly boasty claim "simply quality", with a faux woodcut of a ribbon-bound scroll of excellence. Being a sad old graphic designer, I actually recognise it as a bit of early 1990s computer clip-art, no doubt intended for graduation invitations. • Spotted: Finchley Road, Camden, London, NW3, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn
“Simply Quality”, Camden: scrolled

“East Tower”, Westminster: bridgetastic

"East Tower Security Systems" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • I love bridges on burglar alarms but have only ever found two, the other being yesterday's Tamar. Tower Bridge of course spans the Thames, which like the Tamar is named after an ancient word meaning "dark flowing" – although muddy flowing would be more apt. East Tower are a long-running company, and I have many variations of their sounders, fortunately all bearing this wonderful logo. • Spotted: Vauxhall Bridge Road, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Above: the real Tower Bridge
“East Tower”, Westminster: bridgetastic

“HSS Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: yeoman

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

“Guard Security Systems”, Camden: vicious

"Guard Security Systems" burglar alarm, Camden • That's enough Foot Guards – here's an altogether more violent fellow, who I think may be meant to be a Norman soldier. In fact, he's the most vicious sounder figure I've found since this stabby Centurion in Sheffield. • Spotted: Hatton Garden, Camden, London, EC1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Guard Security Systems”, Camden: vicious

“Krypto Security”, Lambeth: Dracula’s castle

"Krypto Security" burglar alarm, Lambeth • Yet another Krypto – I love Krypto sounders. Especially this nicely-drawn design, which sports a proper turreted castle (unlike yesterday's prisony thing) and spooky gothic lettering, complete with dripping mould. It looks more like an advert for Dracula than a sounder. Oh, and it was found in a road with Marsh in its name, like yesterday's – boggy ground is obviously a popular location for Krypto's creepy castles. • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
“Krypto Security”, Lambeth: Dracula’s castle

“Baymont Alarms”, York: city wall

"Baymont Alarms York" burglar alarm, York • At last, a portcullis attached to an actual, realistic building: a bit of York's ancient city walls, no doubt, or some local fortress. I thought Baymont sounded like a place, but it doesn't seem to be, so maybe it's someone's name. • Spotted: Bootham Crescent, York, Yorkshire, YO3, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Baymont Alarms”, York: city wall

“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 Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: noble mein

"Crusader Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Again, I think we can assume that this fellow's a knight . Security firms wouldn't settle for any old hoi polloi on their sounders, and he's wearing a crowny thing, plus looks of noble mein – a suave smirk and one eyebrow raised, like the James Bond (played by Roger Moore) of crusading. • Spotted: Toynbee Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Crusader Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: noble mein

“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

“Cromwell Security”, Camden: headless dictator

"Cromwell Security" burglar alarm, Camden • As a UK bigwig, Cromwell was one of a republican kind, dispensing briefly with the monarchy and ruling as Lord Protector from 1653 until his death in 1658. Of course, royalty swiftly returned – rather successfully, as we are seeing this weekend – and, though he had died peacefully, three years later parliament had Cromwell dug up and beheaded. Since then the warty head led a colourful life of its own, being sold on from chancer to chancer, finally ending up buried in the grounds of Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, where Ollie had studied. All of which makes Cromwell a rather odd subject for a burglar alarm; but, despite being essentially a military dictator, he still ranks high in popularity polls of historical Britons. There's even a steam train named after him! • Spotted: Millman Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras [caption id="attachment_12250" align="alignnone" width="472"] What Oliver Cromwell really looked like (painting by Samuel Cooper)[/caption]
“Cromwell Security”, Camden: headless dictator

“SP”, East Grinstead: caring mitts

"SP" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • Poignantly faded in true seaside style, this shows a pair of sensitively-painted disembodied hands, in the manner of a Latin American devotional retablo, cupping the anonymous initials "SP" between them. It's an old alarm, and a minimal name to search on: there are quite a few SP security firms on various business directories, but I can't find one from southern England, so presumably these caring hands are defunct. • Spotted: London Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“SP”, East Grinstead: caring mitts

“Trencherwood New Homes”, Southwark: old oak

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

“Swat Selby”, York: digital snooping

"Swat Selby" burglar alarm, York • Another mysterious SWAT alarm, this time with a bulb and a fancier "AT" monogram than yesterday's. I've been googling SWAT and still can't find out much about them: their website is just a holding page saying "coming soon", which could date from any time in the last few years. It bears this swirly "AT" rather than yesterday's clunky effort, so maybe this is the more recent alarm, though it looks pretty ancient. I came across quite a few old SWAT sounders in York, but no new-looking ones, so whether the firm still exists I don't know. I suppose I could ring the number on their website's holding page, but I haven't reached that sorry stage yet, so restricted myself to digital snooping. On one of myriad business aggregator pages (which is where businesses go to die) SWAT turn up on there was a positive review from 2010 – possibly an insider job – saying they were a long-established family firm. I also visited their address on Google Street View, but there was no sign of them there, although as it's a multiple-occupancy business centre, that doesn't prove anything. So all I have learnt is that Selby – which I had never heard of before – has an abbey, lies beside the River Ouse, and looks as if it's falling down. • Spotted: Grape Lane, York, Yorkshire, YO1, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Swat Selby”, York: digital snooping

“Swat Selby”, York: mystery bird

"Swat Selby" burglar alarm, York • They like birds in York: yesterday a raven, today a hummingbird. Although the "SW" in "SWAT" suggests it's a swift. Or a swallow. Yes, I think it's a swallow – hovering over the badly-drawn monogram "AT" rather than a nest. In Selby. As swallows do. I wonder if SWAT is intended as a verb – as in swat all pesky burglars – or as an acronym, as in its original meaning of "Special Weapons and Tactics" (which would be rather exciting in smalltown Selby) or, more locally, "Selby's Wonderful Alarm Technologists"? All very mysterious. • Spotted: Low Petergate, York, Yorkshire, YO1, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Swat Selby”, York: mystery bird

“Hawk Limited”, Hackney: tattered cypher

"Hawk Limited" burglar alarm, Hackney • This tattered old bird is the only actual hawk in the "hawkish birds" section, and the best drawing too, doubtless some random bit of clip-art. I reckon it depicts a falcon, as hawk isn't a species, but a mere generic cypher representing all birds of prey except owls. Which makes the hawk the panther of the bird world. • Spotted: Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Hawk Limited”, Hackney: tattered cypher

“Acorn Security Systems”, Derby: nuts!

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

“Ram Security”, Reigate: angst-ridden

"Ram Security" burglar alarm, Reigate • A depressed-looking ram found on an old-skool corner cafe (actually called Corner Cafe, which is my idea of a proper name) in one of Reigate's less prime areas. Maybe it's protecting them from battering rams. Or maybe they sell battered rams. OK, it's a crappy joke. I wonder if the security firm's owner decided a ram would be a superb logo, so came up with the name "Reigate Alarm Master Security" (RAMS, surely) to match it? Or if the less-than-catchy name came first, then the boss thought, "Eureka! This calls for some clip art of a frowning uncastrated male sheep on my bell box"? I went back recently and the alarm's still there, but it's now so yellow and tattered that the ram looks positively angst-ridden. • Spotted: Dovers Green Road, Woodhatch, Reigate, Surrey, RH2, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Reigate Above: a real ram (photo by Martin Stoltze)
“Ram Security”, Reigate: angst-ridden

“Baker Hart”, Haringey: venison pie

"Baker Hart" burglar alarm, Haringey • I've slipped this into the middle of the animal run because it's such an appalling photograph. I include it because it's my only example of a stag, aka a hart, here clearly illustrating one proprietor' surname. Technically they should have included a picture of a baker too, or perhaps a steaming bun, or even a venison pie, but I'll concede that that might have looked less striking. The reason for the photo's blurriness is that I hate photographing alarm boxes on houses, because the owner is – understandably – liable to rush out and give me a bollocking. So this image was snatched on the hoof, sneak-thief-like, from its neat white house in a leafy lane of Highgate as the late afternoon sun bathed its macho, rutting sounder. • Spotted: Jacksons Lane, Haringey, London, N6, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green Above: a real hart, aka a red stag (photo by Bill Ebbesen)
“Baker Hart”, Haringey: venison pie

“Renard Systems”, Winchester: docile

"Renard Systems" burglar alarm, Winchester • Renard is the French for fox - less embarrassing in English than the German Fuchs, under discussion here. It derives from Reynard, who was a cunning fox-cum-peasant-hero in a hugely poplar series of medieval satirical tales, always getting one over on the big-wigs. To this day foxes are celebrated as being smart and cunning, but they are also viewed by many as murderous thieves – so it's never clear on burglar alarms whether the fox represents the hunter, or the hunted. This one has a rather docile expression, and I'm guessing Renard is the proprietor's name. • Spotted: Town centre, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Winchester
“Renard Systems”, Winchester: docile

“Cobra”, Newham: hooded striker

"Cobra" burglar alarm, Newham • Cobra alarms of different vintages abound in east London, and I've got so many photos of the slinky hooded strikers that I didn't know which to use – this is by no means the oldest, which I'm saving for another time. Cobra is actually a generic name for all sorts of snakes, though they all rear up and spit venom when threatened. It's a ploy that has dispatched unwanted figures throughout history, and is presumably just as effective against burglars. • Spotted: Shirley Street, Newham, London, E16, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham Above: a real cobra (photo by Kamalnv)
“Cobra”, Newham: hooded striker

“BBB”, Camden: to BBB or not to BBB?

"BBB Security" burglar alarm, Camden • Lisa from The Simpsons once impressed infatuated thicko Ralph Wiggum with a card reading "let's bee friends" (pictured below) – which sadly, like the hopeless Ralph, I find incredibly funny. But it doesn't get to the tragicomic nub of this sweetly silly logo, whose deceptively jolly graphics mask the spectre of death: for to be truly effective, these cheery charging arthropods must surely forfeit their lives with their stings. A profound message indeed for a burglar alarm, and one that Shakespeare might have summed up on a greetings card as "To BBB or not to BBB?" • Spotted: Great Russell Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras Above: Ralph's bee card and a real bee (photo by Thomas Tolkien)
“BBB”, Camden: to BBB or not to BBB?

“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

“Siren Security”, Tower Hamlets: Fairfield maiden

"Siren Security" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Yesterday I featured a mermaid from Fairfield Shipping Offices, Glasgow, and today – ushering in the theme of mythological burglar alarms – I give you a mermaid from Fairfield Road, London. Siren Security is a play on words, obviously, between the blaring sirens of the law and the sweet-voiced temptresses said to serenade sailors to their doom, but sirens and mermaids are not strictly synonymous. Though the word is Latin, sirens come to the modern world from Greek mythology: as described in Homer's Odyssey, written around 800 BC, they were winged, sharp-clawed bird-women who lived amidst the rotting corpses of their victims (which would certainly be a deterrent to burglars). The fish-woman comes from even older Assyrian tales of the popular sea goddess Atargatis (called Derketo by the Greeks), disseminated to seaports far and wide by Syrian merchants. Pagan Europeans got these ideas all muddled up with their own folkloric tales, not quelled by a dose of Christianity, so that today in many languages the word for mermaid is "sirena", or similar. In Haitian voodoo there is even a spirit or lwa called La Sirene, a European mermaid mixed up with West African beliefs, often pictured with a siren-like trumpet (see below for examples of all these ladies). Whatever her origin, Siren Security's logo is a charmingly modest mermaid, shown clutching an unidentified tablet – maybe the same one the bizarre wasp-man is holding on Wilton Alarms. And while there are plenty of of male images on burglar alarms, this is one of only two depictions of women I have found, the other being Liberty. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Top left: "The Siren of Canosa", a Greek-style siren (note bird-feet) circa 300 BC from the National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Top right: John William Waterhouse's foxy "A Mermaid" (1900), from the Royal Academy, London. Below: a Haitian sequinned voodoo banner depicting horn-blowing water spirit La Sirene.
“Siren Security”, Tower Hamlets: Fairfield maiden

“Bluebird Securities”, Beckenham: white cliffs

"Bluebird Securities" burglar alarm, Beckenham"There'll be bluebirds over
/ The white cliffs of Dover / 
Tomorrow, just you wait and see. / There'll be love and laughter / And peace ever after / Tomorrow, when the world is free." In fact lyricist Nat Burton's words never came true, because – as discussed alongside the yellow version of this alarm – bluebirds are only found in North America, home of the song's writers. Which didn't stop this Battle of Britain spirit-raiser becoming a massive UK hit for Vera Lynn in 1942 (not to mention Glen Miller and several other artistes in the US), and remaining Britain's most celebrated WWII song ever since. • Spotted: High Street, Beckenham, Kent, BR3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Beckenham
“Bluebird Securities”, Beckenham: white cliffs

“Banham”, Lambeth: posh alarm, rough niche

"Banham" burglar alarm, Lambeth • This is brilliant – a posh Banham alarm in the most rough-and-ready bespoke niche. I found it on the wall of Pimlico Plumbers, who despite their toney SW1 name are located in the distinctly less upmarket area of Kennington, on the other side of the River Thames. • Spotted: Sail Street, Lambeth, London, SE11, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
“Banham”, Lambeth: posh alarm, rough niche

“Magpie Services”, Camden: one for sorrow

"Magpie Services" burglar alarm, Camden • Two security tropes for the price of one: a thieving magpie, and a garland of locksmithery (a subject I shall cover soon). I can't let my final magpie pass without remembering the rhyme famous from classic 1970s kids' TV show Magpie: "One for sorrow / Two for joy / Three for a girl / Four for a boy / Five for silver / Six for gold / Seven for a secret never to be told / Ma-a-a-aaaag-piiiiiiiiie!". Those too young to remember the tune can revisit Magpie's brilliant 1970s opening sequence, sung by the Spencer Davis Group, here• Spotted: Marchmont Street, Camden, London, WC1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Magpie Services”, Camden: one for sorrow

“Security Alarm Services”, Hereford: rural gem

"Security Alarm Services" burglar alarm, Hereford • I'm generally not keen on jewel-shaped burglar alarms but this one, no pun intended, is a gem. And what better to sit on a sparkling gem that a thieving magpie, which despite not being identified by name, this bird indubitably is. It's a sensitive piece of design, the attractive drawing perching cleverly atop the logo, a somewhat crime-inappropriate but charmingly foliate 1970s-style swash font. The firm's initials spell SAS, which would seem more suited to an aggressive combat-style design; but this is from wild and woolly rural Herefordshire in the far west of England, where placid cows and perky birdies rule. In honour of its peaceable location, I should add that magpies in folklore are not considered totally bad, being believed in some parts to protect the household and predict the future. On the other hand, in Scottish superstition a magpie near the window foretells death – which makes placing a Magpie burglar alarm there a pretty bad idea. • Spotted: Town centre, Hereford, Herefordshire, HR1, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Hereford and South Herefordshire
“Security Alarm Services”, Hereford: rural gem

“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

“Macaw”, Nottingham: where’s my perch?

"Macaw Security" burglar alarm, Nottingham • The brightly-plumaged macaw protects its nest with aggressive wing-flapping and a raucous screech, presumably the rationale for its use on an alarm. This unhappy creature has been transplanted from a tropical forest to Nottingham Forest (well, nearby); hunched sullenly in thin air, it's been deprived of both colour and perch. Maybe they got nicked – it seems I'd stumbled into some kind of crime paranoia hot-spot. Shortly after photographing this I was chased down the road by a raucously screeching homeowner, who was convinced I'd been casing the joint; she claimed her large and impressive villa had recently been broken into four times, despite having a burglar alarm. Not this one, I hasten to add. • Spotted: Mansfield Road, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, NG1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Nottingham East
“Macaw”, Nottingham: where’s my perch?

“Thames Security”, Windsor: fierce royal swan

"Thames Security" burglar alarm, Windsor • Swans may look graceful, but they are fiercely protective of their nests and capable of breaking human limbs with the merest flick of a haughty wing (or so I was always warned as a child, when we lived next door to a swan-infested creek). This alarm has a posher location near the Queen's main castle at Windsor, which lies on an equally swan-infested stretch of the river Thames. Swans were once highly prized as game meat, and in the 12th century only the rich were allowed to own them; ever since then, the Crown has retained rights over all "unmarked" swans (ie those not owned by anyone else) in open water. In Windsor, this means the Thames, home of a yearly ceremony called "Swan Upping",  in which ridiculously-dressed men count the swans for benefit of tourists, and presumably to make sure none of the Monarch's birds get nicked. Thus Windsor, the Thames, swans and security are inextricably linked; and this burglar alarm is not as surreal as it may at first appear (apart from the giant floating T). • Spotted: Town centre, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4, England, 2009 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Windsor
“Thames Security”, Windsor: fierce royal swan

“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!

“DIS Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: super-naive

"DIS Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Once again a Whitechapel alarm boasting church bells, even though the inscrutable acronym DIS makes no reference to campanology. These bells are even worse than the amateur Rotring drawing on yesterday's Sound Alarm – in fact it looks as if the DIS designer has paid a red biro double homage to that hapless effort, in the manner of Andy Warhol making a multiple Marilyn. This blog is essentially an ever-growing taxonomy of burglar alarms, which means I'm assigning each design to various categories. As these are artistic rather than scientific groupings, my judgments are often subjective, and never more so than for the category "Naive". Burglar alarm design is a vernacular art, so the vast majority of logos are naive in some way (which is one of the reasons I like them); but a category which includes nearly everything isn't worth having, so I've had to work out gradations. My master database, a monster Lightroom catalogue holding a decade's worth of photos, loosely sorts them under the headings "quite naive", "very naive", and "super-naive" (I said it wasn't scientific). It's always a hard call deciding what to put where, but when you see a super-naive design you know it – and we have one here. In it goes! • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“DIS Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: super-naive

“Sound Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: badly-drawn bell

"Sound Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • One of my favourite alarms, this is so naive it's like fine art. I love the simple yet double-edged name, the basic typography, and just look at that wonky Rotring bell drawing – Tracey Emin couldn't have done better. It's been mightily laboured over, with valiant attempts at shading, texture and even soundwaves – but you wouldn't confuse it with the work of a trained designer. And all that effort wasted, because the church-style swinging bell depicted is precisely the type never found in burglar alarms. Although it's a really old alarm box, there are still plenty knocking around in the Whitechapel area, which perhaps not uncoincidentally also houses the oldest bell foundry in Britain. Tracey Emin also lives nearby – go figure. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Sound Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: badly-drawn bell

“Judge”, Herne Bay: cross-dressing for justice

Judge burglar alarm Herne Bay 2004"Judge Alarms" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • Ah, a stern British judge in his white powdered wig and shiny black tights – what a reassuring picture of justice. I love this hopelessly literal design, though sadly I don't have an in-focus photo of it. Below the main image is another version which, in an example of perfect product placement, I found on a shop called Chainstore Massacre, offering prices both slaughtered and murdered. These alarms predate the UK's court dress reforms of 2008 (a controversial redesign by Betty Jackson), prior to which the entire British judiciary seemed to ponce around in bizarre 18th Century fancy dress. Things have loosened up since then, but in many circumstances wigging up is still required, and even today a High Court judge dresses like this on special occasions. If you want to follow suit, the actual wigs are available here, yours in dark blonde or light grey for two grand apiece. A snip! • Spotted: High Street, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North Judge burglar alarm Herne Bay 2004 Judge alarm on Chain Store Massacre shop Herne Bay 2004
“Judge”, Herne Bay: cross-dressing for justice

“Crimefighter”, Whitstable: “Shut it, you slaaaag!”

Crime Fighter burglar alarm, Whitstable, 2002“Crimefighter” burglar alarm, Whitstable • There's a nice 1970s feel to this, perhaps inspired by seminal TV cop show The Sweeney – though it’s not clear whether the fist represents a window-smashing felon, or a big fat punch from the long arm of the law. I prefer to think it's the latter, accompanied by Regan and Carter's immortal phrase: "Shut it, you slaaaaag!" • Spotted: Oxford Street, Whitstable, Kent, CT5, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Canterbury Crime Fighter burglar alarm, Whitstable, 2002
“Crimefighter”, Whitstable: “Shut it, you slaaaag!”

“Banham”, Kensington: the ponciest burglar of all

Banham burglar alarm, Kensington, 2010“Banham” burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea, 2010 • Unlike the shadowy intruder device, which is simply a generic silhouetted figure, pantomime burglars come in many forms. This refugee from Dexy’s Midnight Runners, on the venerable Banham shield, is by far the most poncey. Who does he think he is, posing in his fancy frame – a gondolier, a mime artiste, a strolling player, a jolly onion seller? He’s even dressed in golden cloth, playing on the beribboned motto “Another Burglar Foiled”. Banham knows it has a reputation as the posho’s burglar alarm, ubiquitous in London’s more gilded postcodes, but this is pushing it. He’s a burglar, goddamit, not a member of the Royal Academy. Interestingly (to some), this New Romantic-looking livery is a fairly recent Banham strategy; previously their alarms were of the minimalist typographic persuasion. From functionalism to frippery: it must be the way society’s going • Spotted: Cheval Place, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW7, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington Banham burglar alarm, Kensington, 2010
“Banham”, Kensington: the ponciest burglar of all

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

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

“Kudos”, Bath: soppy superannuated Alasatian

"Kudos" burglar alarm, Bath, 2008"Kudos" burglar alarm, Bath, 2008 • I love this soppy Alsatian alarm in so many ways. It's on a poncey pink-painted wall in the genteel Romano-Georgian city of Bath. It has a snobbish classical name – "Kudos", meaning glory or renown in Greek – and depicts a potentially vicious dog as a delicate, doe-eyed supplicant. Its logo is a sensitive ink drawing, rare on a burglar alarm, and is printed on an ill-fitting sticker, not guaranteed to inspire confidence. The alarm casing looks like a 1980s clock radio, while the dial-phone symbol is probably not ironic, because this area code went extinct in 1995. The whole contraption is spattered in mud, which complements the pointillist style of the drawing and adds to the general air of pathos. And finally, it's from a Lib-Dem constituency, which makes it a definite underdog in numerical terms. Sad superannuation, pompous overstatement, a cuddly creature, naive design, an attractive architectural setting – it ticks all my favourite boxes. • Spotted: Town centre, Bath, Avon, BA2, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bath "Kudos" burglar alarm, Bath, 2008
“Kudos”, Bath: soppy superannuated Alasatian