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“A1 Alarms”, Southwark: straight

"A1 Alarms" burglar alarm, Southwark • The A1, running from London to York and Edinburgh largely following a straight ancient Roman route, is famously the UK's longest numbered road. This company probably meant their name in the sense of "very good", but seeing as I've found examples of their sounders in both London and York, perhaps they did have the highway in mind too. • Spotted: Bermondsey Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark Above: part of the very long A1
“A1 Alarms”, Southwark: straight

“J&D Security”, Glasgow: literal

"J&D Security" burglar alarm, Glasgow • Loving this – a giant padlock clamped to a globe, illustrating literally the slogan "Securing Your World", thus placing this in the extensive "Locksmithery" category too. No clue as to what J&D stands for, though. The firm obviously are (or were) based in Scotland, but I can't find a website for them. • Spotted: Saucihall Street, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G2, Scotland, 2012 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central
“J&D Security”, Glasgow: literal

Ghost under “3D”, Lambeth: usurped

Ghost under "3D Security Systems" burglar alarm, Lambeth • This faint ghost-shadow is pentagonal, which means it's either an occult symbol, or the final traces of a Shorrock. As for the usurping brand 3D, its initials are clearly meant to suggest three dimensions, but also have the less marketing-friendly meaning of "third". • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
Ghost under “3D”, Lambeth: usurped

Ghost under “GC”, Chelsea: comeuppance

Ghost under "GC Fire & Security" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • And now mighty Chubb gets its comeuppance, with just two measly corners peeking out from beneath a somewhat less venerable brand (albeit one boasting soundwaves – always a good point). • Spotted: Beauchamp Place, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington
Ghost under “GC”, Chelsea: comeuppance

“Assure”, Glasgow: foot guard

"Assure" burglar alarm, Glasgow • The correct name for these guys is Royal Foot Guards, and the Her Maj has four in front of Buck House whenever she's in residence (two when she's not). This one's lurking in a non-standard sentry box roofed with Assure's "AA" logo. Has anyone informed the Palace? • Spotted: Merchant City area, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central
“Assure”, Glasgow: foot guard

“A1 Security”, Norwich: traffic cops

"A1 Security Protecting the Community Norwich" burglar alarm, Norwich • This piece of DIY heraldry conjures up the police force with its badge, checkers, and ribband reading "Protecting the community". But they're obviously not traffic cops, as the A1 – aka Britain's longest numbered road – doesn't go anywhere near Norwich. A name chosen to rise to the top of the phone directory, then. • Spotted: Town centre, Norwich, Norfolk, NR1, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Norwich South
“A1 Security”, Norwich: traffic cops

“CG Computa Guard”, Bolton: green and gritty

"CG Computa Guard" burglar alarm, Bolton • Let me count the ways I love this. It suggests it's guarded by a computer. It's spelled groovily. It's green, which is unusual. It's square, and I like squares. It's got a really basic monogram, and I like those too. It's vintage. It's from Bolton, which sounds all gritty and Northern. It was on an escarpment of grandly decaying windswept buildings, in true gritty Northern fashion. It's rusty. And it's got a shield on. A total winner. • Spotted: St Georges Road, Bolton, Lancashire, BL1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bolton North East
“CG Computa Guard”, Bolton: green and gritty

“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?

“MG Systems”, Glasgow: possibly a Pict

"MG Systems" burglar alarm, Glasgow • It may be slightly contentious to lump this Scottish sounder in under Roman Britain, as the Romans famously never colonised Caledonia – partly because they weren't really that keen on it, apparently. So, although this fellow looks pretty Roman to me, he could be a Pict. The lack of a leather skirt (called, unpronounceably, a "pteruges") is no proof either way, though, as legionaries favoured trousers ("braccae") in colder climes. And of course the kilt hadn't been invented yet – it was the Victorians who dreamt that particular skirt up. • Spotted: Central Station area, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2008 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central
“MG Systems”, Glasgow: possibly a Pict

“Knight Guard Security”, Brighton: un-knightly logo

"Knight Guard Security" burglar alarm, Brighton • Boo, no picture of a knight on this one, or even a humble guard – just a rather decaying G thrust into the welcoming arms of a big fat K. A most un-knightly logo; and I've even got a version of this where they dropped the monogram completely. • Spotted: Gloucester Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Green constituency of Brighton Pavilion
“Knight Guard Security”, Brighton: un-knightly logo

“Security Express”, Camden: slanty-edged

"Security Express Alarms" burglar alarm, Camden • Bearing the ever-popular shield trope, this slanty-edged bell box is a type that was once quite popular – indeed, it's still a common sight on old Cannon alarms around Bristol. There were some comments about the sounder's design beneath this SWAT box from York, including that it's "very loud and sounds unique", and is possibly a Regal Safe product. Regarding speed, the firm is express no more: a company search shows it was incorporated in 1946 and was also known in the 1980s as Hornet and later Computa-Guard, but was bought by Chubb in the 1990s. Blimey, the stuff you can turn up on the internet. • Spotted: Covent Garden area, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Security Express”, Camden: slanty-edged

“CalQuick”, Southwark: grungy nut

"CalQuick Security Systems" burglar alarm, Southwark • Found in a crumbly Peckham arcade, this grungy old sounder features a splendid technical drawing-style monogram which resembles a wrench turning a nut. Unlike yesterday's firm, they managed to spell the word "Quick" right – then lost the plot with "Call".• Spotted: Station Way, Southwark, London, SE15, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Camberwell and Peckham
“CalQuick”, Southwark: grungy nut

“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

“IC Integrated Security Ltd”, Southwark: backronym

"IC Integrated Security Ltd" burglar alarm, Southwark • To end this vision theme, a few examples of punning abbreviations, where the characters stand for entire words or syllables. While broadly acronyms, these seem to be a grey area in the English language, with no precise term for the multifarious kinds of letter-play available, though in an extensive entry, fascinating to those of a sub-editorial bent, Wikipedia suggests "initialism" as a catch-all term. I suspect this is what they would cutely sub-class a "backronym" – "one deliberately designed to be especially apt for the thing being named" – as Integrated Security happily reduces to iC, reading as "I see", or even "eye see". Had the designer dotted the "i" with an eye, this would have created enough levels of punning to end the universe. It possibly did end the company, because their website was last updated in 2009. • Spotted: Old Jamaica Road, Southwark, London, SE16, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“IC Integrated Security Ltd”, Southwark: backronym

“SM”, Bristol: strange peeper

"SM" burglar alarm, Bristol • A blank-faced box with a single black peeper – this is just strange, and like so many sounders featuring eyes, a bit creepy. The company's name is totally obscure – I'm not even sure if it's ISM (geddit), OSM, or just SM, and of course there's no clue what any of it stands for. It's probably not Sado-Masochist, so I'm guessing Security Master. • Spotted: High Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“SM”, Bristol: strange peeper

“3D”, Winchester: WWII spike machine

"3D Security Systems Defend Deter Detect" burglar alarm, Winchester • Defend, Deter, Detect – an ambitious claim which unwittingly sugests this firm is third, rather than first, choice for defence. It clearly needs help with pigeons though: perhaps they use the eponymous "Defender" pigeon spikes from Jones & Son, who sport a brilliant logo with a pigeon standing on it, and seem to have cornered the market. Much as I dislike the look of bird spikes, saving the nation from disappearing beneath piles of guano seems a noble enough cause, especially as the firm offers – perhaps rashly – a large bar of chocolate if they don't answer pigeon control email queries within two hours. They also have a crazy reconditioned WWII wire-bending machine on which they make the spikes – perfect cover for a Blitz alarm! • Spotted: Town centre, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Winchester
“3D”, Winchester: WWII spike machine

“PM Security Systems”, Brighton: time and tied

"PM Security Systems" burglar alarm, Brighton • A mere chunk of chain on an identity that also references time, another popular alarm trope. It's a rough-looking bit of chain, more suited to leg irons than padlocks, though you'd be hard pressed to do anything useful with just three links. • Spotted: Sussex Square, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown
“PM Security Systems”, Brighton: time and tied

“AK Security Systems”, Tower Hamlets: Kalashnikov

"AK Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • AK as in the legendary AK-47 assault rifle, a weapon not unknown in these parts? Probably not, or this would have had a picture of a gun rather than two keholes (unless they're a metaphor for the keyhole surgery required to remove bullets). The idea's not as fanciful as it sounds, because there are burglar alarms alluding to shooting, which I shall feature one day – though they don't go as far as depicting actual firerarms. I shot (photographically) this somewhat blurred image in a Bethnal Green back alley  absolutely stuffed with vintage sounders, though I was actually on my way to the grittily-located Hollybush Gardens gallery. • Spotted: Pundersons Gardens, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“AK Security Systems”, Tower Hamlets: Kalashnikov

“Argus”, Lewisham: a hundred-eyed giant

"Argus Fire & Security Group" burglar alarm, Lewisham • If the reflected double "a" in this Argus logo is meant to look like two eyes, then it's 98 short of the legend. Argus is a popular name in Greek mythology, but being a security device, this is surely inspired by the super-watchman Argus Panoptes, an ever-wakeful hundred-eyed giant whose name means "Argus the All-Seeing". Argus was a servant of Hera, the jealous wife of Zeus – who, as king of the gods, had more nymphs on the side than a premiership footballer. According to Ovid's Metamorphoses (c.8 AD), the politically-incorrect Zeus disguised one unfortunate floozy, Io, as a cow, but suspicious Hera demanded the beast as a gift and set Argus to guard it. Zeus sent his messenger Hermes to rescue Io, which he managed by telling Argus such boring stories that all his eyes fell asleep at once (I know the feeling), and then beheading him. The giant may have perished, but his hundred eyes lived on in the tail of the peacock, where Hera put them to honour his memory. I haven't yet found a peacock pictured on a burglar alarm, but there are plenty decorated with eyes; though most, like that other watchful giant Cyclops, sport only one. As will be demonstrated in a later theme... • Spotted: Lewisham High Street, Lewisham, London, SE13, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford Above: BC and AD versions of Hermes about to kill Argus and rescue the nymph Io, cunningly disguised as a heifer. Top: pictured millennia before burglar alarms, on an Attic vase (c.500 BC) from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna – love the way he's grabbing that beard. Bottom: as imagined more serenely over 1000 years later in Diego Velázquez's "Fábula de Mercurio y Argos"  aka "The Story of Mercury and Argus" (1659), from the magnificent Prado, Madrid.
“Argus”, Lewisham: a hundred-eyed giant

“Windsor Alarms”, Camden: fan-shaped finial

"Windsor Alarms" burglar alarm, Camden • A lovely fan-shaped finial which is worthy, like the adjacent alarm, of genteel Windsor – but was actually found in hardscrabble Kilburn High Road, which despite its grinding traffic and endless parade of plasticky budget shopfronts is full of architectural wonders if you look upwards. • Spotted: Kilburn High Road, Camden, London, NW6, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn
“Windsor Alarms”, Camden: fan-shaped finial

“SS Alarms”, Hull: Hitler’s evil henchmen

"SS Alarms" burglar alarm, Kingston upon Hull • Hmmm, a firm called simply SS – how cryptic. It could stand for "Steam Ship", as in Isambard Kingdom Brunel's pioneering SS Great Britain. It could stand for "Saints", as in the art-stuffed SS Giovanni e Paolo, one of Venice's finest Gothic churches. It could even, if you're a graphic designer, stand for "Same Size". But whenever I see SS on a burglar alarm, it always makes me think of the Waffen SS, as in Hitler's evil henchmen. And so although I know it probably stands for Security Systems (because SS on a burglar alarm inevitably does), the minimalist logo of SS Alarms has ended up here, in my World War II category. • Spotted: Town centre, Kingston upon Hull, East Yorkshire, HU1, England, 2005 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hull West and Hessle
“SS Alarms”, Hull: Hitler’s evil henchmen

“Security Services”, Stoke-On-Trent: an owl’s face?

"Security Services" burglar alarm, Stoke-On-Trent • You may disagree, but I contend that this represents the face of an owl. An owl made of rope, with the initials SS for eyes, to be sure – but still distinctly an owl, down to the suggestion of ears. Yes, it could be a kinky bra, or a pair of goggles, or just a knot – but that wouldn't be so burglar alarmish. I rest my case. • Spotted: Hanley town centre, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Stoke on Trent Central
“Security Services”, Stoke-On-Trent: an owl’s face?

“Lander”, Tower Hamlets: a Scottish family tale

"Lander Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • I have always been intrigued by these Lander boxes. There are plenty still around, but the well-preserved example here is an exception: most are extremely rusty and sun-bleached, and appear to have been abandoned decades ago. I was first attracted by their abstract geometrical logo, which can also be read as two Ls with a red sensor in the middle, echoing the bulb beneath. If repeated, it would make a snazzy piece of 1970s fabric design, and like the Capstan identity of a few days ago, harks back to the heyday of rigorous Swiss graphics. The two Ls surely represent the two Landers behind this Scottish family enterprise: old father Lander, who founded the firm, and whose first name I can't discover; and his entrepreneurial son Ronald (aka Ron), who by his 20s had got a BSc in Electrical Engineering and established the only mortgage brokerage in Scotland. He joined his father's alarm business in the 1970s, rapidly building it up and then in 1979 progressively selling it out to RMC Group (a building supplies conglomerate later notorious for the 1989 Marchioness disaster, when its aggregate dredger Bowbelle rammed a Thames pleasure boat with the loss of 60 lives). Ron stayed on as MD of Lander Alarms until 1985, growing it by acquisition into one of the UK's three largest electronic security firms, upon which RMC offloaded it for nearly £50m to Automated Security Holdings, later bought by Lord Ashcroft's ADT, itself ending up part of global behemoth Tyco. Ronald Lander, meanwhile, exited a millionaire – which meant more in the 1980s than it does now – and got into educational software and civic duties, becoming one of Scotland's best-known business figures and earning a Professorship and an OBE. His internet mentions seem to dry up after 1997, but neither have I come across an obituary – so who knows where the man behind Lander is today, though his alarms look like they gave up the ghost when he sold out in 1979. Fortunately they age exceptionally well, fading gracefully into sepia-toned tableaux of beautiful decay – a theme I'll be returning to later. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Lander”, Tower Hamlets: a Scottish family tale

“Smart Alarms”, Sheffield: cute little critter

"Smart Alarms" burglar alarm, Sheffield • Sheffield's a quirky place, and this is a quirky design. I think it's meant to represent a circular bell of the type actually used in alarms, rather than the church bells normally portrayed – but it's more reminiscent of a cheerful children's character than a security firm's logo. To me, it looks like a cute little critter with a big round eye hugging and licking the letter A, whose rounded Avant Garde-style typeface only compounds the impression of a CBeebies logo. Who knows, perhaps that's what the designer intended – any place that can produce both Pulp and The Human League has got to be conversant with whimsical weirdness. • Spotted: Alma Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central
“Smart Alarms”, Sheffield: cute little critter

“RH Alarms”, Frome: faded felon

RH Alarms burglar alarm (faded), Frome, 2008"RH Alarms" burglar alarm (faded), Frome, 2008 • The ultimate in anonymous intruders: a burglar so bleached that only his generic silhouette remains. With a bit of tweaking in Photoshop, it is possible to discover the logo "RH Alarms" – a suitably uninformative name. • Spotted: Town centre, Frome, Somerset, BA11, England, 2008 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Somerton and Frome RH Alarms burglar alarm (faded), Frome, 2008
“RH Alarms”, Frome: faded felon