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2004

Initial, Camden, 2004

“Initial” burglar alarm, Camden • Initial without the Shorrock – there’s one with the Shorrock (and some bird poo) here. • Spotted: Covent Garden area, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2004 • […]
Initial, Camden, 2004

Be-Sure, East Grinstead: oomph

Be-Sure "Be-Sure" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • These Eurobells seem to attract very basic design, but at least this one has some oomph – and I love the reassuring name. • Spotted: Queens Walk, East Grinstead, West Sussex,  England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
Be-Sure, East Grinstead: oomph

Jupiter Alarms, East Grinstead: chief deity

Jupiter Alarms "Jupiter Alarms" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • Large planet, though not red (that's Mars), so maybe the rosy blob is one of its 67-odd moons, the reddish  Io. The planet is named after Iuppiter, chief deity of Roman state religion throughout the Republican and Imperial eras – he's often represented by a thunderbolt, also popular on burglar alarms. • Spotted: Middle Row, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
Jupiter Alarms, East Grinstead: chief deity

Abacus, East Grinstead: depleted

Abacus "Abacus" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • Today I move on to maths and computing with the oldest computer of all, an abacus – known to ancient Mesopotamians long before burglar alarm engineers got in on the act. Loving the way the A is actually made out of a (somewhat bead-depleted) abacus on this. • Spotted: London Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
Abacus, East Grinstead: depleted

Clarion, Camden: shrill

Clarion "Clarion" burglar alarm, Camden • A clarion is a medieval brass trumpet, shrill in sound and popular with cavalries. Hence the term clarion call, and its suitability for a burglar alarm. I like the Chanel-style double C logo too; there seem to be quite a lot of double initials in these sound-based alarms. Maybe the kind of person who chooses musical names also responds to melodious alliterative repetitions (hey, deep). • Spotted: Covent Garden area, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
Clarion, Camden: shrill

“Optima”, Herne Bay: fontastic

Optima Alarms "Optima Alarms" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • Presumably this is meant to suggest more Latin, ie optimus, from which we derive optimal or optimum – all words for best. Optima however is a typeface, though not the one used on this sounder. • Spotted: High Street, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Optima”, Herne Bay: fontastic

“Lingfield Alarm Supplies”, East Grinstead: local

Lingfield Alarm Supplies Co Ltd "Lingfield Alarm Supplies Co Ltd" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • An attractive building-block monogram for what sounds like a small local company, yet I also found an ancient LAS sounder in Bath once - which is rather a long way from Lingfield on the sleepy Surrey border. Maybe it's one of those DIY jobbies. • Spotted: London Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Lingfield Alarm Supplies”, East Grinstead: local

“So Secure”, Greenwich: handbag-worthy

So Secure "So Secure" burglar alarm, Greenwich • I love this beautiful double S monogram, which is so sophisticatedly retro in its black-and-olive curvyness that it wouldn't look out of place on an Orla Kiely handbag. (That's a compliment, chaps.) However, perhaps not the most legible - it wasn't till I found a version with the website on that I realised the green circle meant it said "SoSecure". Until then I'd always read it as "SSecure", putting it in the rather large "SS" logo category (in the Security Services, rather than Nazi sense). Whereas in fact it kind of says SOS. Very clever. • Spotted: Herbert Road, Greenwich, London, SE18, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Greenwich and Woolwich
“So Secure”, Greenwich: handbag-worthy

“Sabre Security Services”, Herne Bay: slashed

"Sabre Security Services" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • Ah, sabres – a big favourite in the Napoleonic wars, and indeed all post-medieval wars, until made obsolete by rifles (against which a sabre was pretty suicidal). The eponymous firm, meanwhile, was based in Whitstable, Kent – but I can't find a current website for them, so maybe they got slashed. • Spotted: Mortimer Street, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Sabre Security Services”, Herne Bay: slashed

“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

“Absolute Security”, East Grinstead: bricky battlements

"Absolute Security (Surrey)" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • Is it just my imagination, or are there a disproportionately high number of militia-related alarms in the deep Surrey "stockbroker belt" (quaint term in these days of rapacious bankers) of Dorking and East Grinstead? Whatever, this faded sounder showing two bricky little battlements was old when I photographed it in 2004, so I reckoned the company wouldn't be around any more. But an internet search throws up an Absolute Security in Surrey of 20 years standing, so despite a distinct lack of fortifications on their website, I reckon it's the same firm. • Spotted: Middle Row, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Absolute Security”, East Grinstead: bricky battlements

“Sussex Alarms”, Brighton: superior helmet

"Sussex Alarms" burglar alarm, Brighton • Not, as it may appear, Darth Vader, but a Roman soldier in his finely-crafted helmet.Sussex was positively crawling with Romans in olden days, their metal headgear being vastly superior to the barbarians' leather contraptions. Not that I am suggesting Sussex is full of barbarians. • Spotted: Old Steine, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown
“Sussex Alarms”, Brighton: superior helmet

“Crusader Security (UK) Ltd”, Greenwich: fancy shield

"Crusader Security (UK) Ltd" burglar alarm, Greenwich • Crusaders are slightly at a tangent from knights, as not all crusaders were noble horsemen – the crusades were like a travelling township, with vast crowds of commoners and even women and children tagging along. However, lots of knights were crusaders, and as bloke's got a fancy shield, I'll assume he's one of them. • Spotted: Woolwich Road, Greenwich, London, SE10, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Greenwich and Woolwich
“Crusader Security (UK) Ltd”, Greenwich: fancy shield

“Ambassador”, East Grinstead: fancy diplomacy

"Ambassador" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • With this fancy logo, Ambassador, you are spoiling us. In real life, an ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation, and this fine heraldic logo matches up. Faded Ambassador sounders of many types bearing this shield still abound, although the company itself exists no longer, as the comments here diplomatically explain. • Spotted: Middle Row, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Ambassador”, East Grinstead: fancy diplomacy

“Admiral Security Systems”, East Grinstead: admirable

"Admiral Security Systems Ltd" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • This Admiral's taken over another alarm – I'm guessing, from the style and colour of the box, that it's an A1. Just a thought: if Admiral merged with Abel, they'd be Admirable. • Spotted: Middle Row, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Admiral Security Systems”, East Grinstead: admirable

“Admiral Security Systems”, East Grinstead: red flag

"Admiral Security Systems Ltd" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • Perfectly placed on a half-timbered beam, another bigwig from East Grinstead, where I like to think plenty of real retired admirals reside. The rank of Admiral dates from 1297, and the simple logo belongs to a 1992-founded firm whose sounders I spot all over the place. The red-and-white scheme is appropriate, as an Admiral's flag is the similarly-hued St George's Cross. • Spotted: London Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Admiral Security Systems”, East Grinstead: red flag

“Premier”, East Grinstead: head of state

"Premier" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • After sundry aristocrats and yesterday's military dictator, our bigwigs are getting a bit more democratic. In many countries a premier is a head of state, and in some of those states – such as Britain – it's interchangeable with the term Prime Minister. This handsome blue sounder comes from the deeply conservative town of East Grinstead (as quite a few of my bigwig alarms do), and could conceivably date back to the days of John Major, so I reckon it's a Tory premier. • Spotted: High Street, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Premier”, East Grinstead: head of state

“Instant Aid Protection”, Westminster: bold promise

"Instant Aid Protection" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • This vintage Eurobell boldly promises instant aid, which is about as speedy as you can get. I'm not sure if the company was called "Instant Aid" or "Instant Aid Protection", but either way it's not exactly a catchy name, and the logo – if such it is – is pretty basic too. It was found in the dilapidated but once-grand shopping arcade at Victoria Station (hence the fancy moulding, below), which is now being redeveloped. • Spotted: Victoria Arcade, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster [caption id="attachment_11856" align="alignnone" width="472"] The alarm in its grungily grand setting at Victoria Station[/caption]
“Instant Aid Protection”, Westminster: bold promise

“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

“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

“Ideal”, Westminster: mighty hand

"Ideal" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • Now on to caring, sharing hands. This clever logo sums up the idea of protecting your abode most elegantly (unless you read it as a mighty giant smiting the house down) – and I always like the uber-positive term "ideal", conjuring up as it does the "ideal homes" of quaintly optimistic 1950s advertising. Not surprisingly, there are quite a few security outfits called Ideal; but the mighty smiting house-hand here leads me to the 30-year-old Southampton firm Ideal Fire & Security Ltd, whose website shows the same logo on their van. • Spotted: Tavistock Street, City of Westminster, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Ideal”, Westminster: mighty hand

“Primary Systems Ltd”, Camden: cardiac arrest

"Primary Systems Ltd" burglar alarm, Camden • The medical-looking arrow here, with its zig-zag kink and bulging red blob, makes me think of an electrocardiogram trace tracking a pulmonary embolism. Combine this with the name Primary, and it conjures up primary health care trusts and hospitals. And that's not a good thing, because it's depressing. I can only find Primary Systems Ltd on useless old business directory sites, so I reckon the firm went into cardiac arrest itself. • Spotted: Covent Garden area, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Primary Systems Ltd”, Camden: cardiac arrest

“APT”, Herne Bay: circuit diagram

"APT" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • This has a logo of weird broken arrows which I can only assume refers to some kind of circuit diagram. Back in 2004, when I photographed this in Herne Bay, I later wandered past a junk shop which had the APT logo on its fascia. So, unless APT were combining security with a sideline in car boot sales, by that time they had either closed down or moved onwards and upwards. There's still an APT Security in Kent boasting 20 years of experience and a much smarter logo, so maybe it was the latter. • Spotted: High Street, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“APT”, Herne Bay: circuit diagram

“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

“Carroll Security”, East Grinstead: badly-cut wedge

"Carroll Security" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • This must be an earlier version of yesterday's Carroll, as it looks like metal and they aren't yet a "Group". It's a more geometrical version of yesterday's logo, again professional, and surely designed in the 1970s. Once again it's an unusual sounder shape, this time like a badly-cult wedge of cheese. I used to think this was to fit the sloping roof, but I've seen others on flat walls since and they all have the same slanting box. • Spotted: Middle Row, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Carroll Security”, East Grinstead: badly-cut wedge

“Micromark”, Herne Bay: sixties sci-fi DIY mystery

"Micromark Security Systems" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • I've included this splendid space-age case in the "retro-futurism" category because it's a top piece of 1960s-style sci-fi design, and Micro-Anything, like Anything-Tronic, conjures up the early days of integrated circuits (and yes, that does include Microsoft). I've seen quite a few of these around – they seem to be used by Micromark only – and they're always still in pristine condition. I'd assumed that this was because they were some high-end piece of kit, but having done an image search on Micromark, I've discovered they target the cheap DIY market, as explained in this Guardian article and on this spammy-looking Security System Guide. This and several other Micromark systems (none of which I've spotted in the wild) crop up listed on Amazon and various price comparison sites, but they generally seem to be unavailable, so I'll leave it to the experts to tell me more about this mysterious brand. Bizarrely, there's a YouTube video here of some lad setting up a Micromark alarm on his wardrobe – I doubt that his mother was impressed. • Spotted: Station Road, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Micromark”, Herne Bay: sixties sci-fi DIY mystery

“Crown”, City of Westminster: weedy update

"Crown" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • I debated whether to put this in, because it's almost the same as yesterday's, and I said my somewhat irascible piece about crowns then. However, at the risk of being hoist by my own anti-History Channel petard, this is a sad example of how burglar alarm design degenerated from its glory days of sturdy metal boxes and proud ridged roundels to the tacky, plasticky nothings that booted them out. Look how much worse this weedy update has worn and faded than yesterday's fine original. And as for the bland corporate font – it doesn't even conjure up the Nazis! And what kind of a sorry excuse for a burglar alarm is that? • Spotted: Horseferry Road, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Crown”, City of Westminster: weedy update

“Monarch”, East Grinstead: bring on the crowns

"Monarch Security & Fire" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • Well, amazingly I've managed to keep this blog going for a whole year, and after posting north of 365 different burglar alarms I still have a vast amount yet to feature (don't all cheer at once). So, seeing as it's a leap year, here's to the next 366 alarms. But I do actually have a bit of a life too (just a bit), so from today I've changed the format slightly in order that I don't always have to write so much about each one. I'll still be posting in series of themes, as taxonomy was always the point of this blog, and I'll introduce each theme as before. But, if I haven't got anything to much say about a particular alarm – other than that it fits within the genre – then I'll keep it very brief. I would still appreciate comments however, and will be reading them all avidly and answering where appropriate as I do now. Following on from yesterday's vintage Royale, the first theme of 2012 is "Royalty" – which, as well as being appropriate for this jubilee year, is one of the security world's most enduringly popular tropes, preferably accompanied, as here, by a hefty old crown. Oh, and notice the aptly regal address – not the last I'll feature, as royal British road names aren't exactly rare. • Spotted: Queens Walk, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid 
“Monarch”, East Grinstead: bring on the crowns

“Abel”, East Grinstead: biblical victim

"Abel Alarm" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • According to the Bible, Abel was the world's first murder victim, being the son of Adam and Eve who was slain by his brother Cain. This firm's memorable name is definitely a reference to the event, as recorded in this article I came across by an Abel employee. In it, the company's boss Peter Eyre explains that when he launched the firm in 1965, he wanted a name that would sit atop all alphabetical lists. "So obviously I was looking at AA," he is quoted as saying, "but that had already gone! Therefore, I picked up the Oxford Dictionary and came across Abel – who was the slayer of Cain. I thought that it was good to have a religious connection. In addition, the name Abel is at the top of the list…A followed by B. It infers and sounds like an alarm bell – A Bell! To sum up we as a company are very able…so that was it, I got it registered." So the name is Abel, able, alphabetical and a bell – which is all very clever, but maybe the interview was wrongly transcribed, because Abel didn't kill Cain, he was killed by him, becoming an eternal symbol of martyrdom. Whatever, my favourite placing of this biblical classic is above a door in Church Walk, shown below. • Spotted: Middle Row, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid Above: an old example of the biblical alarm aptly placed in Church Walk, Rugby
“Abel”, East Grinstead: biblical victim

“Panther Security”, East Grinstead: mutant eyebrow

"Panther Security" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • For years I didn't spot the "P" in the eye here, and was racking my brains as to what the full word could be – "ANTHEM" was my best (and wrong) guess. Then recently I came across this more recent version: lo and behold there was a letter “P” in the eye, so the firm is of course Panther. Although real panthers don't have eyebrows. • Spotted: London Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Panther Security”, East Grinstead: mutant eyebrow

“Euroscan Security”, East Grinstead: plucky move

"Euroscan Security Ltd" burglar alarm, East Grinstead• Now, in the never-ending procession of eyes, I move on to typographic treatments. This one is quite clever, though invoking the continent is a plucky move in this swathe of deeply traditional stockbroker belt, which is represented in parliament by Tory grandee Nicholas Soames, the portly grandson of Winston Churchill. And referencing the Euro isn't exactly reassuring to anyone these days. • Spotted: Middle Row, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Euroscan Security”, East Grinstead: plucky move

“Barry Bros”, Camden: back to the 90s

"Barry Bros" burglar alarm, Camden • This is a slightly older version of yesterday's Barry Bros design, minus the word "security" and with an outmoded 0171 code – very 1990s. The actual sounder is of the same style as yesterday, with the slim square bulb beneath; it's quite a common type, though I haven't featured many so far. Other than that there is nothing scintillating to note – I am simply being completist about sounders with eyes on. • Spotted: Covent Garden area, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Barry Bros”, Camden: back to the 90s

“Kestrel Alarms”, Brighton: hostile takeover

"Kestrel Alarms" burglar alarm, Brighton • Last week cages, this week birds. I had so many bird alarms I divided them into two parts. The first was "arbitrary birds", which were random and generally benign – bluebirds, doves, macaws and the like. Part two, "hawkish birds", are more fierce, being the kind that rip apart large prey with their talons (technically I should have included owls here, but as they seem to feature on alarms for their cute or wise qualities, they're in with the benign bunch). And although this cartoon Kestrel looks pretty unthreatening – like an avian member of the Blues Brothers, with his cool shades and cheeky smile (or that's how I read it) – he's made an effective hostile takeover of a box previously owned by LanGuard Alarms, a firm who still exist. At first I thought LanGuard was a stupid name, but it was founded by someone called Lang, so there is some logic there. And yes, I do know Lan also means Local Area Network. • Spotted: Old Steine, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown
“Kestrel Alarms”, Brighton: hostile takeover

“Initial Shorrock”, Herne Bay: seaside smear

"Initial Shorrock" burglar alarm, Herne Bay • This nasty little smear was found in the seaside town of Herne Bay, so it may have emanated from the rear of a seagull rather than a pigeon – it does look like it was dropped at speed from a great height. Not the world's most exciting piece of birdshit, but one with a smidgeon of irony, as Initial are a vast industrial cleaning company. • Spotted: Mortimer Street, Herne Bay, Kent, CT6, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Initial Shorrock”, Herne Bay: seaside smear

“Intruder Alert” and “ADT”, Tower Hamlets: crusty

"Intruder Alert" and "ADT" burglar alarms, Tower Hamlets • This colourfully crusty corner is the sort of architectural detail that got me interested in photographing burglar alarms in the first place. There's only one kind of intruder causing problems here, and it's got feathers rather than a swag bag. Not to mention a very runny arse. • Spotted: White Church Lane, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Intruder Alert” and “ADT”, Tower Hamlets: crusty

“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

“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

“Sound Alarms”, Westminster: horny unicorn

"Sound Alarms" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • An odd subject for a burglar alarm, the unicorn is – like yesterday’s mermaid – a popular subject in young girls’ literature. This logo is more reminiscent of a 1980s computer magazine, with its warped sci-fi font suggesting the wow of a siren, and a pixellated unicorn that's either the ultimate in retro-futurism, or a bit of low-res clip art. Like all the mythological alarms I have found, this bizarre mix of ancient and modern originates in antiquity. The early Greeks believed unicorns were real wild animals living in India, and matters were further confused because in Mesopotamia bulls were often depicted in profile, showing just one horn. There are unicorns mentioned in the Christian Bible, though the original Hebrew term is re'em, a powerful beast which scholars have suggested could be anything from an ox to a rhino. This biblical connection led to the pretty white European unicorn, a deeply allegorical beast which could only be soothed by laying its head, complete with immense phallic horn, in the lap of a young and sometimes bare-breasted virgin (there are some examples below). With obvious symbolism, their "horns" – usually narwhal horns, upon which the spiralling spike is based – were considered great aphrodisiacs; Queen Elizabeth I reputedly had one in her cabinet of curiosities. And though initially associated with the Virgin Mary and purity, unicorns soon became frankly raunchy, prancing across vastly expensive OTT tapestries amidst hunting parties and fertility symbols, ending up happy and blood-spotted after capture by a fair maiden, in the manner of a medieval boy band member. Which explains why unicorns remain a staple of pre-pubescent female fantasy, but does not shed any more light on this weird burglar alarm, or what a unicorn has to do with sound – unless it's a play on the word "horn". • Spotted: Vauxhall Bridge Road, City of Westminster, London, SW1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Some frisky unicorns. Top left: An underdressed lady soothes the beast in “Wild Woman with Unicorn”, c.1500, a cushion from Basel Historical Museum. Top right: "The Unicorn Is Penned", c.1500, a unicorn spotted with blood (or red juice) after capture by a maiden, from the epic Unicorn Tapestries in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bottom: "Virgin and Unicorn", 1605, teenage love as portrayed by Domenichino (aka Annibale Carracci) on a fresco in Rome's Farnese Palace.
“Sound Alarms”, Westminster: horny unicorn

“Thorndon Security”, Camden: typographic relic

"Thorndon Security" burglar alarm, Camden • Graphic design heaven: a load of decaying type on a wall. The numbers are a good old 1950s font, typical of that era when presumably there weren't many different styles of signage lettering to choose from. The alarm sports one big initial, a very common device, and one I'll return to. I found it in the gem-dealing area of Hatton Garden (famously featured in Dustin Hoffman's 1976 film Marathon Man) and, although legitimately photographing in a public street, got very heavily hassled by a security guard for my pains. That was just three years after 9/11, and it would probably be even worse now. It's actually quite difficult photographing burglar alarms –  it often makes me feel like a criminal myself! • Spotted: Hatton Garden, Camden, London, EC1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Thorndon Security”, Camden: typographic relic

“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

“Haven Security”, Brighton: peace and lightning

"Haven Security" burglar alarm, Brighton • I know it's meant to be an H formed from a lightning flash, but this also looks like half an SS logo trapped in a gate. Brilliantly, Haven Security is based in Peacehaven on the white cliffs of Sussex, nowadays a bastion of middle-class retirees but once Britain's much-fortified frontline to the continent. Peacehaven is obviously the origin of the firm's title, qualifying this alarm for the WWII theme by both design and location. Combined with the sunset lighting, it always makes me think of retired army colonels drinking sundowners in the safe haven of their cosy clifftop bungalows. • Spotted: Old Steine, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown
“Haven Security”, Brighton: peace and lightning

“Thorn”, East Grinstead: prim and proper

"Thorn" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • I've already recounted the tangled corporate history of the modernist Thorn alarms, which you'll find here. This 1970s-designed Thorn is protruding through the twee terracotta tiles of a no doubt historic roof, from which – East Grinstead being a prim and proper kind of place – the proud homeowner has cut a neat circular niche to accommodate their big red anti-burglar device. • Spotted: London Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Thorn”, East Grinstead: prim and proper

“Swift”, East Grinstead: they make spit-nests!

"Swift" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • I've got a few Swift alarms of varing designs, but this is the only one with the image of a bird, so the others presumably just refer to a speedy response. And the common swift pictured (rather badly) here really is fast, capable of 134mph speed-bursts, though preferring to cruise at a legal 30mph. The only bird known to mate while flying, its burglar alarm credentials include spending all night on the wing, and repelling nest intruders with vicious fighting and screeching. On the other hand it disappears to warmer climes for eight months of the year, so it's not the most constant of guardians. True fact: that cliche of Chinese cuisine, bird's nest soup, is made from the gluey saliva of cave swifts, which they use to construct cup-like nests. So popular and pricey is this delicacy that the swift spit-nests are now industrially farmed. Eeeuuuw. • Spotted: High Street, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Swift”, East Grinstead: they make spit-nests!

“Shorrock”, Camden: red star of Blackburn

"Shorrock" burglar alarm, Camden • I've always been attracted by this subtly stylish pentagon with its flaring red sun, but most examples have faded to blank-faced anonymity. Originally called Shorrock Develoments, the firm was founded in 1962 by Stanley Shorrock, said by some to have invented the first UK burglar alarm (though there had been several UK alarm firms before this, so I'm not sure if that's true). I could find virtually nothing about Stanley Shorrock on the internet, despite an obsessive search; I think he ended up a Sir, and probably started life in Blackburn, which is where he based the firm. Shorrock is an old local place name, cropping up regularly for hundreds of years around the Lancashire town, where there's a Shorrock Lane to this day. It's also a common surname in the area; in fact the current Labour councillor for Shadsworth, the ward where Shorrock's factory was based, is called Jim Shorrock – coincidence? I did turn up a textile machinery designer from Blackburn called Stanley Shorrock, who in the 1950s co-developed the first British tufted carpet manufacturing machine with Brian Mercer, but I have no idea if that's the alarm firm's founder – the dates tie in, so it's entirely possible. The known facts are less intriguing, being – as with all these big security firms – mainly a string of post-1980s mergers and acquisitions. Shorrock, under the mysterious but successful Stanley, expanded thoughout the 1960s to become a large and respected firm. They designed and manufactured their own security systems, building two factories in the Blackburn suburb of Shadsworth in the early 1970s; the blue metal Shorrock boxes with faded white lettering still occasionally seen perhaps date from this era. In 1985 Shorrock listed on the stock exchange, and in 1986 they were snapped up by BET PLC, a UK conglomerate once called British Electric Traction and better known for its bus operations. This must have led to the era of the fine pentagonal box shown here, its hint of the launderette harking back to the days when modernist graphics were considered suitable for everything from electronics to detergent. In fact that spiky star is a twin of the once-familiar logo of Rediffusion, a TV company owned by BET until the mid-1980s. In 1996, BET got taken over in a hostile bid by Rentokil Initial PLC, the unholy alliance of a pest-control firm and an industrial launderer (perhaps they were attracted by the washaday-style logo). At this point their alarms became branded Initial Shorrock, and by 2000 just Initial; they retained the chic pentagons, but the graphics became an undistinguished 90s affair, still much in evidence on the high street today. After several years of grumbles about under-investment and poor management, the division was bought out in 2007 by serial security-firm-gobbler UTC, a US leviathan on a roll after their 2003 aquisition of Chubb alarms. By 2010 all UTC's security brands had been rationalised under the venerable blue triangle of Chubb Systems (perhaps that's why I've recently seen a pentagonal Chubb) – and so Initial Shorrock was no more. Maybe one day I'll find out what happened to Stanley Shorrock, too. • Spotted: Covent Garden area, Camden, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Holborn and St Pancras
“Shorrock”, Camden: red star of Blackburn

“Modern Alarms”, East Grinstead: faded optimism

"Modern Alarms" burglar alarm, East Grinstead • This week I'm looking at what I think of as Modernist burglar alarms: those with an unusual rigour of form and branding. They are few in number, and seem mainly to have been bespoke designs for big companies. They also tend to be old, with minimalist design styles recalling the 1970s – before the sloppy post-modernism of the 1980s kicked in, and before purist geometrical boxes were supplanted by fiddly plastic faceting. So where else to start but with Modern Alarms, whose superb name and logo date from the mid-1970s, when the firm's boss, the late Dennis Smith, had it rebranded from Modern Automatic Alarms. It is housed in the classic Eurobell "coke cap" case, designed by Colin Marsh for the Middlesex-based company Scantronic, who specialised in mid- to high-end security equipment (thanks to Richard Wilson for that info). Modern Alarms went on to use a variety of other cases, but they were always of simple form, solid yellow, and with the logo unchanged and well-placed. There are plenty of examples still to be found around London (and doubtless elsewhere), but Modern they are no more: most are sadly faded and effaced, often resulting in wonderful architectural compositions lent a rueful irony by the sunny optimism of that now-decaying name. • Spotted: High Street, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Sussex Mid
“Modern Alarms”, East Grinstead: faded optimism

“Trustee”, Westminster: a taste of porridge

Trustee burglar alarm Westminster 2004"Trustee Alarms" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • While proceeding through the burglar alarm category of "the law", our failed felon has been punched by a policeman, collared by a bevy of boring detectives, sentenced by a transvestite judge, and has now ended up in chokey. Being a pantomime burglar, he soon becomes a "trustee", a term familiar to watches of classic jail sit-com Porridge as referring to a slightly despised class of prisoners who perform menial duties for the "screws". His final stop – after the cushy playground of his Sky TV-enabled luxury open prison – will be a in the embrace of a very large woman called Liberty, to be posted tomorrow. • Spotted: Tavistock Street, City of Westminster, London, WC2, England, 2004 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Trustee burglar alarm Westminster 2004
“Trustee”, Westminster: a taste of porridge

“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