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Vintage

“Enright Security”, Southwark: futuristic

"Enright Security" burglar alarm, Southwark • I've already shown a small version of this as part of a decaying duo on an old laundry, so here it is in close-up: a superb vintage sounder with a sci-fi eye pierced by a lightning flash. Mike Hardesty, whose company it was, explains in his interesting comments here that the firm was started in 1976, named after his partner Eddy Enright, and sold to Lander Alarms in 1982. The logo was meant to represent an electronic eye, and was designed by a customer from his previous company who was "a bit of an arty person". I bet he never thought it would turn up on a futuristic invention called "the internet" over 30 years later. • Spotted: Pages Walk, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Enright Security”, Southwark: futuristic

“AFA”, Birmingham: poo-brown paint

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

“Rely-a-Bell” and “Essex”, Tower Hamlets: crowned

"Rely-a-Bell" and "Essex Security Services" burglar alarms, Tower Hamlets • Another striking composition from the endlessly-picturesque Petticoat Lane area, which is studded with vintage alarms. These have got two lines of defence: a communal half-veil of pigeon netting, and individual mini-crowns of pigeon spikes protecting their exposed heads. They're very well preserved, so it seems to have worked. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Rely-a-Bell” and “Essex”, Tower Hamlets: crowned

“Essex”, Tower Hamlets: netted

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

“Lock-It Security”, East Grinstead: big-bulbed classic

"Lock-It Security Maidstone" burglar alarm, East GrinsteadEast Grinstead is just as excellent for ancient alarms as Old Coulsdon (well, both are in the Domesday book), and here provides proof that all-text alarms don't have to be boring by hosting this a lovely vintage box with a big red bulb and well-arranged type in one of my favourite fonts, Cooper Black. Which sounds a bit pathetic, but I'm sure other graphic designers will know what I mean. • Spotted: Middle Row, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Lock-It Security”, East Grinstead: big-bulbed classic

“The Lock Centre”, Chichester: nerdy day trip

"The Lock Centre Alarm" burglar alarm, Chichester • A charming old piece of sunbleached script further enhanced by artistic rust, or possibly mould – totally evocative of the weatherbeaten and folorn marina where it resided. I wish I'd been able to get directly in front of it, as I dislike side-on shots like this. I stumbled across it during a friend's unsuccessful quest to find Farthings, TV astronomer Sir Patrick Moore's thatched Selsey home (in a spirit of fandom, not stalking). What a totally nerdy day out. • Spotted: Marina area, Chichester, West Sussex, PO20, England, 2009 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chichester
“The Lock Centre”, Chichester: nerdy day trip

“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

“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

“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

“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

“Apollo Eagle”, Tower Hamlets: moon lander

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

“AFA Minerva EMI”, Lambeth: warrior woman

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

“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

“Sentry Alarms”, Rugby: guarding Gas Street

"Sentry Alarms" burglar alarm, Rugby • An elderly alarm on a house that looks beyond burglary. This was found in the famous public school town of Rugby (birthplace of the boring game), where even decay in a road called Gas Street looks salubrious. In my experience, industrial sounding locations like Ferry Road, Electric Avenue or Gas Street always prove to be interesting; places with posh names like Manor Road are generally downmarket (there will be an example soon); and you can always park in Park Street. Fact! • Spotted: Gas Street, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV21, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Rugby
“Sentry Alarms”, Rugby: guarding Gas Street

“Chloride Granley”, Hackney: stencil graffiti

"Chloride Granley" burglar alarm, Hackney • Another study in London pinks and grey-blues, and a most unusual alarm. The logo Chloride Granley has been spray-stencilled, graffiti-style, onto an older Granley box, beating Banksy stylistically by some decades. Below it is some genuine modern graffiti in the form of a white arrow, setting off the alarm nicely (in the artistic, rather than the siren, sense). It's more normal to add a sticker when an alarm firm has been taken over, and this is the only stencilled effacement I've ever found; I'd be interested to know if there are any further examples around. • Spotted: Leonard Street, Hackney, London, EC2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Chloride Granley”, Hackney: stencil graffiti

“Honeywell Shield”, Hackney: faded colour field

"Honeywell Shield Security System" burglar alarm, Hackney • Yesterday I featured a knight, and today a shield: another very popular alarm device. There's nothing spectacularly decaying about this scene, but it's a study in faded colour; the rusty red alarm toning with the soft pink wall, set off against the flat blue-grey expanse of inscrutable window by bars of dirty white. Not for the first time when photographing burglar alarm tableaux, it makes me think of 1960s colour field paintings, or a print by Ed Ruscha. But I can't afford those, so this will do for me. • Spotted: Kingsland Road, Hackney, London, E2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Honeywell Shield”, Hackney: faded colour field

“Rely-a-Bell”, Camden: biblical queen

"Rely-a-Bell" burglar alarm, Camden • After yesterday's burglar alarm on a George Gilbert Scott church, another piece of High Victorian Gothic, also on a biblical theme: Hephzibah was an Old Testament queen, though here she adorns a dusty shopfront on the Kilburn High Road. The glorious Italianate windows have survived rather better than the super-rusty Rely-A-Bell beside them, however. • Spotted: Kilburn High Road, Camden, London, NW6, England, 2007 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn
“Rely-a-Bell”, Camden: biblical queen

“Houseguard”, Merton: George Gilbert Scott church

"Houseguard Security " burglar alarm, Merton • Centred above the pointy window is a decaying head looking down at the decaying burglar alarm, which although it's on a church is called Houseguard Security. St Mary's was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott, responsible for just about every Gothic Revival building in England, including the brilliant Midland Grand Hotel at St. Pancras Station, which has just been restored. The church is in wealthy Wimbledon Village, and in its graveyard stands the mausoleum of Sir Joseph William Bazalgette, who built London's grand Victorian sewers. • Spotted: St Mary's Road, Merton, London, SW19, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Wimbledon
“Houseguard”, Merton: George Gilbert Scott church

“Olympic Alarms”, Bolton: funereal moss

"Olympic Alarms" burglar alarm, Bolton • I found this mossy relic on a boarded-up Bolton funeral parlour called Shaw & Son, a decaying traditional frontage of great pathos. Appropriately, it was part of the same condemned hillside terrace as the weeping Computa-Guard alarms of a couple of days ago. Close inspection reveals that under the vegetation is a logo saying Olympic Alarms, but all things must pass. • Spotted: St Georges Road, Bolton, Lancashire, BL1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bolton North East
“Olympic Alarms”, Bolton: funereal moss

“CG Computa Guard”, Bolton: weeping guards

"CG Computa Guard" burglar alarm, Bolton • A brace of elderly Computa-Guard alarms standing guard abreast a firmly barred window on a hilltop terrace of boarded-up buildings in Bolton. The futuristic name stands in poignant contrast to the rusty brown trails they are weeping down the walls. • Spotted: St Georges Road, Bolton, Lancashire, BL1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bolton North East
“CG Computa Guard”, Bolton: weeping guards

“Brocks Burglar Alarm”, Southwark: flame-grilled

"Brocks Burglar Alarm" burglar alarm, Southwark • Brocks was once a famous make of fireworks, and though I think the alarm firm's identical name is simply a coincidence, the beautiful moiré rust marks on this vintage example are certainly reminiscent of flame-grilling by a ferocious bonfire. • Spotted: King's Bench Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Brocks Burglar Alarm”, Southwark: flame-grilled

“Modern Alarms”, York: an ancient survival

"Modern Alarms" burglar alarm, York • Ancient and modern, in perfect harmony. The colours are as found: the once-yellow Modern box really has faded to the same sepia tones as York's venerable bricks. The constituency, meanwhile, is a tiny island of Labour red in a sea of true blue Tory. There's more on the history of Modern Alarms here• Spotted: Aldwark, York, North Yorkshire, YO1, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of York Central
“Modern Alarms”, York: an ancient survival

“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

“ARG Security”, Islington: bouquet of barbed wire

"ARG Security" burglar alarm, Islington • Echoing yesterday's imagery, another pointy roof decorated with barbed wire and a rusty vintage alarm, this time enlivened by a spray of weedy foliage and – for some reason – a string of giant fairy lights entangled with the wire. The building is a defunct garage, one of an ever-diminishing clutch of old-style industrial units in the rapidly gentrifying hinterland of Kings Cross. • Spotted: York Way, Islington, London, N1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury
“ARG Security”, Islington: bouquet of barbed wire

“Maxim” and “Enright”, Southwark: unusual old duo

"Maxim Burglar Alarm" and "Enright Security" burglar alarms, Southwark • Two unusual old alarms clinging beneath a crown of barbed wire on the charmingly-named Sapphire Laundry, which – as the bottom image shows – is of the same vintage as the alarms. • Spotted: Pages Walk, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Maxim” and “Enright”, Southwark: unusual old duo

“Ambassador”, Southwark: jewel-bright decay

"Ambassador" burglar alarm, Southwark •  To paraphrase the infamous Fererro Rocher ad, "With this dodgy old furniture shop, Ambassador, you are spoiling us!" I've never seen an Ambassador alarm that's less than weathered, but this one has a particularly fine setting, on the jewel-bright tiled pillar of this spectacularly ramshackle facade. It's at top right, tucked in beneath the fulsome Victorian finial's paint-encrusted cornuopia. London used to be studded with such gems, but the redevelopment mania of the last two decades has made decaying shopfronts harder to find. This one is near Tower Bridge, and seems to have had a new bit of board added every time I go past (ie once a year). • Spotted: Grange Road, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Ambassador”, Southwark: jewel-bright decay

“Lander Alarms”, Lambeth: sepia symphony

"Lander Alarms" burglar alarm, Southwark • Depending on how you look at it, urban decay can be grotty or beautiful, and I err on the side of the latter. I got into documenting burglar alarms via photographing old buildings, and there's nothing I like more than a faded, forgotten corner – which is of course the vintage alarm's natural habitat. This photo looks like I hit the "sepia" button, but the scene really was these colours – even the Lander logo had faded to brown. It's above an arch of the immense railway viaduct which snakes south of the Thames from Bermondsey via London Bridge and Waterloo to Vauxhall. A lot of the arches have become quite smart and trendy (no bad thing if you live in the area), but happily this backwater of Lambeth still sports some authentic picturesque grubbiness. • Spotted: Newport Street, Lambeth, London, SE11, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
“Lander Alarms”, Lambeth: sepia symphony

“Strident Bell”, Marlow: found art object

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

“Rely-a-Bell”, Tower Hamlets: a rare 60s survival

Rely-a-Bell burglar alarm, Wentworth Street London E1, 2010"Rely-a-Bell" burglar alarm, Tower HamletsYesterday's post showed the most common and beloved style of Rely-a-Bell, dating probably from the 1950s. This one, covered in pigeon netting, is far rarer; in fact it's the only example of this design I've seen. It's not the only logo variation to be found – there are a few others on Flickr, where I've made a gallery called Rely-a-Bell: History showing variations from the 1920s–1960s. According to a Flickr comment by ~Notes"The Rely-a-Bell Company dates back to 1921 and was a market leader until 1961 when it was purchased by the Burgot company, which later became Chubb". I'd guess this jaunty and professional-looking logo dates from the mid 1960s (assuming Burgot kept the brand name after they took over); it reminds me of the lettering on detergent packs from that era, and the circular device has something of the launderette about it too. I wonder if this was the last-ever iteration of the Rely-a-Bell livery? For more background on Rely-a-Bell, see this memoir by Dave Robertson, MD of Full Stop security (who have an excellent burglar alarm design I shall feature one day), which starts with his time at Rely-a-Bell in the early 1960s. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Rely-a-Bell burglar alarm, Wentworth Street London E1, 2010
“Rely-a-Bell”, Tower Hamlets: a rare 60s survival