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SOS, Glasgow, 2010

“SOS” burglar alarm, Glasgow • Looks like they blanked out something above the padlock shield. There’s another, earlier-looking version here. • Spotted: Merchant City area, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2010 • […]
SOS, Glasgow, 2010

K.I.S., Bristol: wonky

K.I.S Key Integrated Systems "K.I.S. Key Integrated Systems" burglar alarm, Bristol • Wonky star in background, for no apparent reason. • Spotted: Royal Oak Avenue, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
K.I.S., Bristol: wonky

CMR Electrical, Bristol: tiny

CMR Electrical Telephone Bristol "CMR Electrical Telephone Bristol" burglar alarm, Bristol • A tiny, tiny old logo with a giant telephone number. It's too small to make out here, but the logo is a wee house surrounded by a giant chain and keys. • Spotted: Small Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
CMR Electrical, Bristol: tiny

“Knightsbridge”, Merton: horsey bling

"Knightsbridge Security Systems Ltd" burglar alarm, Merton • Giant chains, jewelled keys and a white horse (at least that's what I think it is) on top: that's one blingy portcullis Knightsbridge have in their possession, worthy of Harry Potter or Katie Price. Though like West London Security, the placing is slightly off – wealthy Wimbledon Village may very well be full of bespoke portcullises, but it's a long way from Knightsbridge. Dodgy geography seems to be a feature of portcullis alarms. • Spotted: High Street, Wimbledon Village, Merton, London, SW19, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Wimbledon
“Knightsbridge”, Merton: horsey bling

“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

“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

“Key Integrated Systems”, Bristol: soap dish

"Key Integrated Systems" burglar alarm, Bristol • We're moving into uncommon rectangular shapes now, which basically means boxes with fancy edges or indentations – so although rare, they're not the most exciting of enclosures. This has a ridged clear panel beneath a curved white top, and is the only example I've ever seen. It's not very recognisable however, and the best I can say about it is that it's a bit like a soap dish, or perhaps a sea slug. I can't argue with the disco-tastic logo though, which manages to incorporate an acronym, a star, locksmithery, technology, and the fact that K.I.S. were established in 1976. How on earth does Bristol support so many independent security firms? It suggests it's the crime hot-spot of the western world, though I'm sure it's not. • Spotted: Queen Charlotte Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2012 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Key Integrated Systems”, Bristol: soap dish

“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

“Keyways”, Manchester: reductive redesign

"Keyways" burglar alarm, Manchester • Here's an updated, less-basic version of yesterday's Keyways Alarm, though the obsolete 0161 Manchester code indicates it's still quite old. It's a more sophisticated design, although the Greek key aspect has been somewhat lost due to the white-on-white portion of the spiral (unless it's just faded). Also missing is the word "alarm" – I've noticed that when firms modernise their identities, that's usually the first thing to go. Presumably mere burglar alarms are considered hopelessly outmoded in today's world of high-tech multi-functional security systems. Thanks to a nice comment from Keyways' boss Mike Greaves on yesterday's post, I now know that this classical key reference was chosen by his late father Brian in the 1960s, and is absolutely intentional; it relates to the firm's origins in developing a specialised form of key safe, of which there's a potted history on the informative Keyways website. That geometric spiral was a cleverly-chosen and far-sighted piece of branding, because unlike all the other keys depicted in this Locksmithery section, Greek keys – being both abstract, and so ancient they're effectively timeless – don't date. • Spotted: Canal path, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, Lancashire, M4, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Manchester Central
“Keyways”, Manchester: reductive redesign

“Keyways Alarms”, Manchester: erudite classicism

"Keyways Alarms" burglar alarm, Manchester • We've had visual keys, verbal keys, and now, from Manchester's "gay village" of Canal Street, an abstract key. It's a Greek key to be precise, as featured in this frieze below a vintage Panda sounder in Liverpool. According to Wikipedia, the correct term is a "meander" pattern or Greek fret (which sounds like a bailout-related sulk), though I've never seen those terms used in the UK. Whatever, it's an erudite visual reference for a burglar alarm, although the design is otherwise pretty basic. • Spotted: Canal Street, Manchester, Lancashire, M1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Manchester Central
“Keyways Alarms”, Manchester: erudite classicism

“Key Stone Security”, Sheffield: classic caper

"Key Stone Security" burglar alarm, Sheffield • Architecturally speaking, a key stone is the piece at the top of an arch which holds it up. However, given it's on a vintage burglar-catching device, this instead suggests the Keystone Kops – not in their original 1912 silent film guise, but the classic 1983 Atari "video game cartridge" Keystone Kapers, in which Officer Keystone Kelly has to apprehend light-fingered Harry Hooligan (who looks like a typical "pantomime burglar") before he flees a department store. It's not the first alarm I've come across that conjures up ancient computer games: there are also a couple suspiciously resembling Pac-Men• Spotted: North Church Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central
“Key Stone Security”, Sheffield: classic caper

“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

“Lockstock Alarm”, Old Coulsdon: stylish shape

"Lockstock Alarm" burglar alarm, Old Coulsdon • Along with Radam, this unusual vintage alarm is another locksmithery winner: the highly stylised key logo wouldn't look out of place on a 1960s Scandinavian boutique. The nearest I can find to such a shape in real life is the so-called paracentric key, which has a slot up the middle and complicated teeth – however not as spiky as these. The name "Lockstock" presumably derives from the phrase "lock, stock and barrel", meaning "the whole lot"; however although it sounds plausibly lock-related, the saying in fact refers to musket parts. • Spotted: Coulsdon Road, Old Coulsdon, Surrey, CR5, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Croydon South
“Lockstock Alarm”, Old Coulsdon: stylish shape

“Strathand”, Glasgow: dual-keyed doppleganger

"Strathand" burglar alarm, Glasgow • This uninspired design scrapes into the locksmithery category because its crossed keys have been reproduced directly from yesterday's vintage SOS alarm – the proof being the tiny S just visible below the keys in both designs. Strathand is a well-established family firm based in Paisley, Scotland, though what their relationship to SOS was, or indeed whether one of the letters in SOS stood for Strathand, I haven't been able to ascertain – although I have learned, for what it's worth, that this is a Texecom Odyssey 1E external sounder. • Spotted: Merchant City area, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central
“Strathand”, Glasgow: dual-keyed doppleganger

“SOS”, Glasgow: keys of heaven

"SOS" burglar alarm, Glasgow • After a run of single keys come two crossed castle keys on a shield-shaped lock escutcheon. In Roman Catholic tradition, crossed keys represent the silver and gold keys of heaven, given by Jesus to St Peter as a symbol of holy power. In heraldry, they are always presented in saltire – that is, arranged in a St Andrew's Cross, as here – and can be read as a symbol of Papal authority. Given that this alarm was found in Glasgow, a city long simmering with Catholic versus Protestant sectarianism, and also capital of Scotland, whose flag is a blue-and-white St Andrew's cross, the symbolism may not be coincidence. • Spotted: Govan Road, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G51, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow South West
“SOS”, Glasgow: keys of heaven

“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

“Home Counties Monitored Security”, Islington: smug

"Home Counties Monitored Security" burglar alarm, Islington • This is a grainy digital enlargement, as the box was positioned high up on a block of private flats (you never see alarms on council flats). It's the most modern alarm I've found depicting a key, which means that in design terms it's old-fashioned. It's also the only key with flat teeth, denoting a chunky lever lock rather than a dainty but less-secure pin-tumbler one. Note also a little house roof over the letter "H", emphasising the "Home" in that smug term, "Home Counties" – where does that leave all the other counties, then? So, a paean to stolid home ownership and southern civic pride, on a supremely boring alarm. • Spotted: Crouch Hill, Islington, London, N4, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
“Home Counties Monitored Security”, Islington: smug

“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

“Radam”, Tower Hamlets: genteel locksmithery

"Radam Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This vintage alarm, found near Petticoat Lane market, is my favourite key example. Although presumably dating from the 1960s, the lettered key has a pre-war look, evoking a genteel age of locksmithery – you can almost imagine a butler answering the alarm bell. There's attention to detail, too: the grooves on the shaft are streamlined into the design, and the notches on the blade echo the "am" of "Radam" – which sounds like a completely made-up name. • Spotted: Goulston Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Radam”, Tower Hamlets: genteel locksmithery

“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

“SDT Securities”, Dorking: old-skool wiring

"SDT Securities" burglar alarm, Dorking • Another old Surrey wall, this time from the town of Dorking, an attractive place despite its dorky name and supposed boringness. The wall is festooned with cut-off wires and bird poo, and the alarm's logo features the old-skool device of a key – very passé these days. • Spotted: Town centre, Dorking, Surrey, RH4, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Mole Valley
“SDT Securities”, Dorking: old-skool wiring

“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!