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2002

“Lee”, Camden: revitalised

"Lee Security" burglar alarm, Camden • This is probably named after a person, but as it's a popular sounder in East London, I like to imagine it references the fascinating River Lee (or Lea), a snaky waterway which branches into so many channels it's hard to keep track of. It used to be pretty much a ditch by the time it petered to an end at Bow Creek, but thanks to the Olympics has been totally re-landscaped and revitalised, and is now rather beautiful. • Spotted: Betterton Street, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras Above: the River Lee (aka Lea) at Bow Locks, London, where it meets Limehouse Cut
“Lee”, Camden: revitalised

“Wright Security”, Lewisham: lion rampant

"Wright Security" burglar alarm, Lewisham • This heraldic lion is similar to yesterday's, only facing the other way, and punching rather than slashing with its paw. Known as a "lion rampant", it's a venerable heraldic device that has been used to represent England since Norman times – though because of the colour scheme, this looks more Scottish to me. • Spotted: Deptford Bridge, Lewisham, London, SE8, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford
“Wright Security”, Lewisham: lion rampant

“Xtal”, Wandsworth: deprecated electronica

"Xtal" burglar alarm, Wandsworth • XTAL – what a brilliant sci-fi-sounding acronym, albeit unexplained. London's 01 area code only lasted until 1990, so unless Xtal's proprietor was deeply into avant-garde 1980s electronica, it's unlikely the firm's name was inspired by the eponymous track on Aphex Twin's 1992 debut album Selected Ambient Works 85–92. It's more likely both names refer to a different genre of electronica, namely a type of crystal oscillator sometimes notated as XTAL on electrical schematic diagrams. The term is now as deprecated is this ancient "baton" sounder's phone number, and I fear the once Wimbledon-based firm may be redundant too, for despite there being plenty of recent-looking Xtal sounders lurking around London, their website is nowhere to be found. • Spotted: Battersea Park Road, Wandsworth, London, SW11, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Battersea
“Xtal”, Wandsworth: deprecated electronica

“Barry Bros Security”, Westminster: abstract eye

"Barry Bros Security" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • This is quite a popular firm in central London, and I have come across several versions of their abstract eye design. This is the most recent-looking, although dating back to 2002; it bears the magic word "security", whereas the older ones don't. Barry Bros' rather antiquated website says they were founded in 1945 and are based in Praed Street WC1, opposite Paddington Station; Google Street View shows them as still there, so presumably they still exist. • Spotted: Mortimer Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Barry Bros Security”, Westminster: abstract eye

“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

“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

“Ace”, Lewisham: fit for a fighter pilot’s bomber jacket

"Ace" burglar alarm, Lewisham • I've just featured a couple of Spitfire alarms, so what better to follow than an Ace. There are loads of Ace alarms around, which – judging by their wide variety of surface graphics – emanate from more than one company. This is one of the oldest I've come across, and seems ideal to represent a WWII flying ace: worn and sunbleached, its naive hand-drawn roundel looks plucked straight from the side of a fighter plane or a pilot's battered leather bomber jacket. If you'd rather see some real WWII fighter aces, Wikipedia has an impressive illustrated list covering all nationalities. The Axis aces – especially the Germans – have way higher scores than their Allied counterparts; apparently they tended to continue flying missions until killed, whereas successful Allied pilots got rotated to other positions. However it's an area so clouded by propaganda that there doesn't even seem to be a hard and fast number of "kills" required to become an ace, and different countries use different counting systems. My favourite factoid is that the Soviets had the world's only female WWII fighter pilot aces: Katya Budanova and Lydia Litvyak, with around 11 and 12 victories respectively. Up the girls! • Spotted: New Cross Road, Lewisham, London, SE14, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford
“Ace”, Lewisham: fit for a fighter pilot’s bomber jacket

“Churchill”, Camden: evoking wartime Winston

"Churchill Security" burglar alarm, Camden • Unlike yesterday's Union Jack, this has an unambiguously WWII slant. Churchill is not an uncommon name – there's the insurance company with the talking dog for instance – but even if Churchill is the surname of this firm's owner, the addition of a waving national flag can't help but evoke the legendary wartime Prime Minister, which is undoubtedly intentional. A Thatcher alarm similarly decorated wouldn't summon up quite the same subliminal image, and as for Blair Security, the mind boggles... though it would be amusing to discover one. • Spotted: Betterton Street, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Churchill”, Camden: evoking wartime Winston

“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!”

“Regal”, Wandsworth: a work by Neville Brody?

Regal Security Systems burglar alarm, Wandsworth, 2002"Regal Security Systems" burglar alarm (stickered over RH Alarms), Wandsworth • Oh, the ignominy – having another firm's logo plastered over your head. There's enough of the original design showing to discern that this is an RH Alarms box, the same as yesterday's faded felon – their trademark running figures had clearly become yesterday's men. The Regal design is also pretty ancient by now, and looks inspired by the 1980s works of Neville Brody (famed art director of style mag The Face), especially his 1984 record sleeve for Marilyn's Baby U Left Me. I'm sure the logo font is one of his: it's like a cross between Dome and Typeface 4. I can't find a digital version, but of course any old designer could have photocopied the letters from magazine headlines, as was common practice pre-DTP. However Brody did design things like estate agents' boards in his earlier days, so it's not inconceivable he had a hand in this – and a conspiracy theorist would note that his font foundry, Fuse, ran a design competition on the theme of security in 2005. The only regal connotations of the honeycomb device are royal jelly and queen bees (or, coincidentally, The Royal College of Art, where Neville Brody is now head of graphics), but the conceit of taking an aristocratic title is very common amongst the burglar alarm fraternity – and a theme I shall return to. • Spotted: Battersea Park Road, Wandsworth, London, SW11, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Battersea Regal Security Systems burglar alarm, Wandsworth, 2002
“Regal”, Wandsworth: a work by Neville Brody?

“X Ray Alarms”, Hersham: an evil alien burglar

X-Ray Alarms burglar alarm, Hersham, 2002"X Ray Alarms" burglar alarm, Hersham, 2002 • An unusual shape which combines several top burglar alarm tropes in one naive logo: shield, lightning bolt, dated technology, and a poorly-drawn running figure, sporting swag bag, unidentifiable stick, and what is presumably meant to be an eye mask (did burglars EVER wear those?) but looks more like a motorcycle helmet. Or maybe the burglar’s meant to be an alien. Or an evil radiologist. Hersham also spawned Sham 69 and Shakin’ Stevens, so it doesn’t seem impossible. • Spotted: Ambleside Avenue, Hersham, Surrey, KT12, England, 2002 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Esher and Walton X-Ray Alarms burglar alarm, Hersham, 2002
“X Ray Alarms”, Hersham: an evil alien burglar