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2006

ISI, Dorking, 2006

“ISI” burglar alarm, Dorking • Because I’m sad, I know this stands for Integrated System Installations, as on the version here. • Spotted: Town centre, Dorking, Surrey, RH4, England, 2006 […]
ISI, Dorking, 2006

ADT, Hackney, 2006

“ADT” burglar alarm, Hackney • Now for some monograms, ie the easy logo solution of joining initials together in various arty / random ways. Here’s a pretty famous one – […]
ADT, Hackney, 2006

CSS, Hackney, 2006

“CSS” burglar alarm, Hackney • I often see these generic alarms featuring a portion of Britain. I guess it’s a standard design people apply their firm’s name to (in this […]
CSS, Hackney, 2006

Ace, Newham, 2006

“Ace” burglar alarm, Newham • And yet another Ace. Got to get rid of them somehow. There’s a similar trapped one here. • Spotted: Leytonstone Road, Newham, London, E15, England, 2006 […]
Ace, Newham, 2006

BCS, Dorking, 2006

“BCS” burglar alarm, Dorking • From precious diamonds to diamond shapes. This one’s overlooked by a nice gargoyle (see below). • Spotted: Town centre, Dorking, Surrey, RH4, England, 2006 • Politics: […]
BCS, Dorking, 2006

CAS Security, Hackney: beaky

CAS Security "CAS Security" burglar alarm, Hackney • This is a very peculiar design; I can't work out whether the logo is meant to be a monogram, a stylised object of some kind, or just random. To me, it most suggests a weird beaky face. I saw loads of these in Birmingham recently, so it's not an uncommon brand. • Spotted: Shoreditch High Street, Hackney, London, E1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
CAS Security, Hackney: beaky

“Avon Alarms”, Bristol: gorge

"Avon Alarms" burglar alarm, Bristol • There are several River Avons in the UK, because Avon is a derivation of the ancient British word for river: thus River Avon actually means River River. This charmingly discotastic sounder refers to the lovely "Bristol Avon", which runs through Gloucestershire and Wiltshire en route to Bath and Bristol, where it cleaves the mighty Avon Gorge then heads out to sea. Avon Alarms are a familiar sight in the city, which also used to be in the county of Avon, before it got turned into a "unitary authority". • Spotted: Clifton area, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West Above: the Avon Gorge, Bristol
“Avon Alarms”, Bristol: gorge

“Security Ltd”, City of London: lions passant

"Security Ltd" burglar alarm, City of London • This shows three lions "passant", as on the Royal Arms of England, dating from the 1198 Great Seal of the Realm. How things last: if only the seal's first owner, Richard I, could have known the design would endure to enhance burglar alarms and football kit over 800 years later. Oddly, there's no actual firm's name on this, unless they're just called Security Limited. Maybe they are. • Spotted: Aldersgate Street, City of London, London, EC1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Security Ltd”, City of London: lions passant

“Hadleigh Security”, Tower Hamlets: crane and cockles

"Hadleigh Security" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Now we merge from shields into heraldry, where the shield is just part of an overall coat of arms, albeit probably a made-up one. This one has what appears to be a crane coming out of its helmet and balloons raining down on cockles, owned perhaps by the lord of some Cockney manor. The name makes me think of Tony "Foghorn" Hadley out of Spandau Ballet, recently heard tooting out the excellent "Gold" over many an Olympics TV show. Speaking of which, most of White Post Lane got eaten up by the Olympics, so I doubt this sounder is there any more. • Spotted: White Post Lane, Tower Hamlets, London, E9, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Hadleigh Security”, Tower Hamlets: crane and cockles

“Bastion Protec Systems”, Dorking: defensible space

"Bastion Protec Systems" burglar alarm, Dorking • One of the very few "defensible space" sounders without an image on it, the name Bastion helpfully sums up all the alarms in this section. A bastion is literally a pointy bit of fortification that pokes out from castles and the like, but figuratively means a stronghold of some kind. As it happens I really like this logo: 1970s disco it may be, but it's sensitively designed in classic style, and looks like it was done by a professional. • Spotted: Town centre, Dorking, Surrey, RH4, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Mole Valley
“Bastion Protec Systems”, Dorking: defensible space

“Castle Security”, Bristol: chess-style

"Castle Security" burglar alarm, Bristol • Oh dear, a pair of very sad and stained old chess-style castles, with even the contact number snipped off (at least, that's what I assume the gap between them is). Probably nothing to do yesterday's Castle – it must be an extremely popular name. Yet another anonymous throwback from the enormous burglar alarm mortuary that is Bristol. • Spotted: Town centre, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Castle Security”, Bristol: chess-style

“Knightsbridge”, Merton: horsey bling

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

“Knighthood”, Tower Hamlets: tricky moves

"Knighthood" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Pictured twice and named thrice, this shows a knight in the chess sense, renowned for its tricky moves. Or maybe the owner of this company actually does have (or hanker after) a knighthood – not impossible, as Sir Jules Thorn would attest, were he still alive. • Spotted: Blackwall Tunnel North Approach, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Knighthood”, Tower Hamlets: tricky moves

“City Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: ticked off

"City Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • While arrows and chevrons are popular on burglar alarms, their natural graphic companion the Sure Deodorant-style tick is rare, so here begins a necessarily short run of them. Hornchurch-based City Alarms rocked the tick-plus-London-skyline look for years, though they've now got a totally different logo which you can see on their website here. They've got yet another logo on their brilliant legacy Web 2.0 website here – bristling with sound effects and animations, it must date from around 2000, as it says the 1988-founded firm is 12 years old. • Spotted: The Oval, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“City Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: ticked off

“Swift Fire & Security”, Ealing: strangely static

"Swift Fire & Security" burglar alarm, Ealing • At last, a Swift that's easy to find – the 1982-founded company's website is here. You see absolutely loads of their alarms around, but nicely designed though it is, their logo doesn't visually suggest speed in any way; in fact, it looks positively static. It's on the same unusual soap-dish box as the Key Integrated Systems here, which I now know is called an Odyssey 4. • Spotted: Ashbourne Parade, Ealing, London, W5, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Ealing Central and Acton
“Swift Fire & Security”, Ealing: strangely static

“Thorndon”, Newham: tenuous thorns

"Thorndon Chelmsford" burglar alarm, Newham • Yet another variation on thorns, admittedly rather tenuous – but it's a nice old Eurobell box, and I have to feature these things somewhere! Essex-based Thorndon were formed in 1982, an era this sounder probably dates from – but I've seen plenty of newer ones too. • Spotted: Cooks Road, Newham, London, E15, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham
“Thorndon”, Newham: tenuous thorns

“Tetco”, Tower Hamlets: corporate thrust

"Tetco" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This thrusting, self-piercing arrow is either strangely phallic or reminiscent of a devil's tail. It has a late 1980s corporate feel: something Margaret Thatcher would have approved of on a BA plane's tailfin, or the door of a privatised BT phone box. Calling your company "something-co" is equally corporate, but a risky strategy: it can sound impressive if the image is good enough, but it can also look pathetic with a shonky design. This just about falls in the former camp, so I assumed Tetco was quite a big operation. However Google only throws up a Tetco Security Systems in Deal, Kent that exists solely on business directory sites (aka business graveyards), and another registered in Cheshire that appears equally inactive. So despite its professional image and name, this firm is presumably defunct. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Tetco”, Tower Hamlets: corporate thrust

“Yale”, Tower Hamlets: humdrum wedge

"Yale" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Now come a few odd-shaped sounders for which I can't find the correct geometrical terms (because there probably aren't any). The hulking contraption above is the dummy box companion to Yale's round sounder here – though as I commented there, if that is a gleaming Gouda, this is a mere humdrum wedge of Cheddar. • Spotted: Redchurch Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Yale”, Tower Hamlets: humdrum wedge

“Microtec Security”, Richmond: pointy-sided survivor

"Microtec Security" burglar alarm, Richmond upon Thames • This is quite a striking old pointy-sided sounder design which doesn't crop up very often, though I also featured a vertical one here. I know that 20-year-old MicroTec Security still exists, and with much the same logo, because I was driving behind one of their vans in central London the other day – although they're actually based in Farnborough, Hampshire. Their name also qualifies them for the recent "retrofuturism" category, due celebrating micro-ness and tec-ness. This is a triple whammy as it also uses computer-style "camel caps", where a capital letter is used to break up two strung-together words. • Spotted: Barnes High Street, Richmond upon Thames, London, SW13, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Richmond Park
“Microtec Security”, Richmond: pointy-sided survivor

“Secom”, Islington: dirty great plug

"Secom" burglar alarm, Islington • And after yesterday's "rebadged" Secom, here's a very dirty example of the real thing, featuring the bland "UK plug" shape usually only seen on the Japanese conglomerate's sounders and thus presumably a proprietary design (though they do use rectangular boxes too). Sometimes these deltas have neat rectangular strobes on the base as here, and that's as exciting as it gets. • Spotted: Goswell Road, Islington, London, EC1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury
“Secom”, Islington: dirty great plug

“Ambassador”, West Wycombe: stray Secom plug

"Ambassador" burglar alarm, West Wycombe • See how the shapes are moving on? Yesterday's was a slightly squared-off triangle, and now we're motoring towards full-on faceted sounders by way of a few "UK plug" shapes. This particular example fails on three counts: it's a dull shape, a faded logo, and it's shot at a bad angle. But I include it because this weird flat delta is normally only used by the Japanese security giant Secom. I have come across many older variations of Ambassador sounders (such as this), but only one like the example above. I'm assuming Secom took over Ambassador, rather than vice versa – unless Ambassador somehow acquired and rebranded a load of Secom's very recognisable covers. • Spotted: Village centre, West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, HP14, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Wycombe
“Ambassador”, West Wycombe: stray Secom plug

“ESS”, Tower Hamlets: bottom-lopped shield

"ESS" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Here's a rarely-seen shape that's very similar to Banham's proprietary shield, but with the crucial difference of having its bottom lopped off. Although ESS is an unexplained acronym, l happen to know that this psychedelic soundwave design belongs to Essex Security Services, who seem to regularly update their logo and sounders – not to be confused with ESS (Electronic & Security Services) in Northern Ireland, or ESS-Security Ltd of Leeds. Not the most exclusive set of initials, clearly. • Spotted: Brick Lane, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“ESS”, Tower Hamlets: bottom-lopped shield

“Imperial”, Bristol: Ballardian Chinese take-away

"Imperial" burglar alarm, Bristol • Yet another Imperial, and though it looks completely different from yesterday's, I'm guessing it's the same firm in an earlier guise. It's most incongruous for a Bristol burglar alarm: a Chinese house against a big round moon, or perhaps it's a Japanese-style rising (or setting) sun of empire. To me, it can only conjure up JG Ballard's brilliant fictive memoir Empire of the Sun, based on his childhood in Japanese-occupied WWII Shanghai – and of course WWII is a popular alarm trope. But for a security device this is a very fanciful design, and one more suited to a Chinese take-away. Taking away isn't a good connotation for a burglar alarm, so I'm not surprised it got changed.• Spotted: Clifton area, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Imperial”, Bristol: Ballardian Chinese take-away

“Sovereign Security”, Bristol: god bless Queen Vic

"Sovereign Security" burglar alarm, Bristol • Nestling on a fine brutalist wall is another Sovereign Security sounder, though I don't know if it's the same company as yesterday or the day before. This looks like it dates from some time between those two, yet the design's totally different – but it seems unlikely there would be two firms with the same name operating in the Bristol area. It's a much duller design, even if it finally does spell out that SSS stands for Sovereign Security Services (nothing like repeating your name twice in the space of six inches). It was found in aptly regal Victoria Street, which like half the civic projects in England was named after good Queen Vic, which means they're also named after me.• Spotted: Town centre, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Sovereign Security”, Bristol: god bless Queen Vic

“Crown Security Systems”, Hounslow: bleak and bland

"Crown Security Systems" burglar alarm, Hounslow • I'm already getting confused by the plethora of regal firms, so I've just looked up this particular Crown Security Systems to discover they were formed in 1982, and are based in Merton, South London. This bland crown is another that looks more like a jester's hat, and was shot on what I now remember to be a bleak and unhappy winter's day – it's amazing how even the most basic of photos can bring memories back of a whole walk. Its location, Chiswick Mall, sounds like a horrible shopping centre but is in fact a picturesque promenade of large Georgian houses facing the Thames at Chiswick, blighted only be Heathrow-bound jets thundering past at what sounds like nose-level every two minutes. • Spotted: Chiswick Mall, Hounslow, London, W4, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brentford and Isleworth
“Crown Security Systems”, Hounslow: bleak and bland

“Aaron”, Bristol: biblical bigwig

"Aaron Hi-Tech" burglar alarm, Bristol • Although not much feted in western Christianity, Aaron – Moses' elder brother and the first high priest of the Israelites – is a big player in Judaism and Islam, and a major saint across the lands of the Eastern Orthodox Church. He's a popular subject in gorgeous Russian icons, but in western art is rarely depicted, with the lone pinnacle being Pier Francesco Mola’s recently discovered “Aaron, Holy to the Lord” (below), painted around 1650. The magnificent old master shows a severe-faced Aaron carrying out his sacred duties on Yom Kippur, aided by nothing more hi-tech than a silver censer and a big hat – suggesting this alarm suffers from an extreme misnomer. • Spotted: Town centre, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West Above: Aaron, east and west. Left: an 18th-century icon from Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia. Right: Pier Francesco Mola's superb painting, "Aaron, Holy to the Lord", c.1650.
“Aaron”, Bristol: biblical bigwig

“Grange”, Old Amersham: monkish manor

"Grange" burglar alarm, Old Amersham • Home, home on the grange – a popular place name in England, and originally denoting the farming estate of a monastery, of which there were once squillions. Henry VIII seized them all at the dissolution of the monasteries, then doled out the land to his noble chums, hence the term's continuing association with manors and country houses today. Posh Old Amersham is exactly the kind of place you'd associate with burglar alarm-studded Tudorbethan granges, though this excellent ancient design is probably too modern for local tastes. • Spotted: Town centre, Old Amersham, Buckinghamshire, HP7, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chesham and Amersham
“Grange”, Old Amersham: monkish manor

“ITS”, Hackney: blue crucifix

"ITS" burglar alarm, Hackney • I have come across quite a few burglar alarms that, wittingly or unwittingly, refer to Christian themes – so, as we're coming up to Christmas, now seems a good time to feature them. I don't know if this ITS monogram is intended to look like a big blue crucifix, but it certainly reads as one. The family firm behind the logo emphasise trustworthiness on their website, which explains that the acronym stands for "Integrity Technology Security". It would make a good choice for churches, so if there are any vicars reading this (unlikely, I feel), take note! • Spotted: Rivington Street, Hackney, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“ITS”, Hackney: blue crucifix

Nameless alarms, Lambeth: anonymous fortress

Nameless burglar alarms, Lambeth • Whereas yesterday's burglar alarms really were an art installation, these just look like one. They suddenly appeared atop a cute little renovated industrial block near where I live, back in the heady days when people were still redeveloping things and, for some reason, painting them all shiny blue. Given the building resembles a shoebox-sized concrete fortress, with apparently no windows, I'm surprised it needs one alarm, let alone four, though their anonymity at least matches the unit's inscrutable appearance. • Spotted: Carlisle Lane, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
Nameless alarms, Lambeth: anonymous fortress

“Security Centres (UK) Ltd”, Newham: Olympic cruelty

"Security Centres (UK) Ltd" burglar alarm, Newham • This vintage sounder doesn't exist any more, as I found it in a part of London that's now been completely torn down to make way for the Olympics. It's a bit hard to make out, but that's a thunderbolt piercing the portcullis – another popular alarm motif I shall feature one day. So not only will felons be brutally gated, they'll be electrocuted. Nice! • Spotted: Pudding Mill Lane, Newham, London, E15, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham
“Security Centres (UK) Ltd”, Newham: Olympic cruelty

“Intervene Securities”, Newham: divine retribution

"Intervene Securities" burglar alarm, Newham • Here's another iteration of Intervene's elderly lightning flash – I'd be interested to know if it's older or newer than yesterday's. Thunderbolts suggest not only electric shocks (or in extremis the electric chair), but also retribution from on high, in the form of a bolt from the blue. So maybe this intervention will be divine... • Spotted: Abbey Lane, Newham, London, E15, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham
“Intervene Securities”, Newham: divine retribution

“IFSS Infocus Security”, Hounslow: verbal vision

"IFSS Infocus Security" burglar alarm, Hounslow • Now I leave the visual representation of eyes for a few alarms that, counterintuitively, refer to vision verbally – in this case, with that popular catch-all management-speak buzz-word, "focus". In all other ways, it's a supremely boring design – it isn't even an unexplained acronym, despite the extra "S" (for "systems", presumably). I promise there are some better ones to come. • Spotted: Chiswick Mall, Hounslow, London, W4, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brentford and Isleworth
“IFSS Infocus Security”, Hounslow: verbal vision

“Focus Security Systems”, Bristol: dying star

"Focus Security Systems" burglar alarm, Bristol • The inclusion of the word "Focus" on this faded device leads me to think of this as a stylised eye, though it could equally be a dying star. Focus don't appear to have a website, and when I looked them up on Google Street View it showed a caravan... so that may be an apt metaphor. • Spotted: Town centre, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Focus Security Systems”, Bristol: dying star

“Raysil”, Birchington-on-Sea: sci-fi Clearasil

"Raysil Security Systems Ltd" burglar alarm, Birchington-on-Sea • Once again an abstract eye stares out from a diamond-shaped panel, this one less elegant than yesterday's and possibly constructed from a clunky mutated R and Y. Raysil, reminiscent of Clearasil, is an odd name. The word "ray' is always quite sci-fi-sounding, and it's set in what in lesser graphic design circles of the 1980s would have passed for a sci-fi typeface. But I'm wondering if, more prosaically, it's made of two names run together: Ray and Silvia, for instance, or Ray Silver (though my researches show the erstwhile owners, who sold out to a venture capital company in 2008, are not called anything like that). As an aside, can I point out that this hefty, angular sounder is surely one of the ugliest "jewel-shaped" (aka delta) boxes ever made. • Spotted: Town centre, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, CT7, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Raysil”, Birchington-on-Sea: sci-fi Clearasil

“Pro-Sec”, Tower Hamlets: mutant gecko

"Pro-Sec" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • I found this eagle on a trendy little black-and-white-painted Lambretta dealership, where it matched quite well. Known in heraldry as a spread eagle, it's an incredibly common device despite its popularity with hawkish regimes from the Romans to the Nazis lending it militaristic and even fascist connotations. This one has been splatted by a stripey shield, and is clutching some mysterious objects in its talons. My guess is an olive branch and a quiver of arrows, but it could just as easily be a mutant gecko and a bunch of twigs. The name, Pro-Sec, is equally obscure. Presumably it stands for "professional security", but it sounds more like a painkiller. • Spotted: The Oval, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Pro-Sec”, Tower Hamlets: mutant gecko

“Eagle”, Birchington-on-Sea: clumsy king

"Eagle" burglar alarm, Birchington-on-Sea • The eagle has been seen as king of the birds and a messenger of the gods since ancient times (although there's a bit of a crossover with falcons), and an Apollo Eagle has already featured in the mythology section. This design has an evocative 1960s feel, apt for sleepy Birchington-on-Sea, though the clumsily-drawn eagle looks less like a lord of the air than a delivery owl fresh from Hogwarts. I've also found a version that includes the word "Canterbury", so perhaps that's where it actually comes from. • Spotted: Town centre, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, CT7, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Eagle”, Birchington-on-Sea: clumsy king

“Colt”, Hackney: brutal subtext

"Colt Alarm Systems" burglar alarm, Hackney • OK, so I've already featured a Colt, but it was shrouded in pigeon netting; this one's simply blurred. The fact that the term Colt is associated with handguns as well as young male horses is probably no coincidence, which means this also falls into the rare "shooting" category. The device's brutal subtext makes a nice contrast with the girly puce paint, which was on a groovy Shoreditch boutique. • Spotted: Goldsmiths Row, Hackney, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch Above: real colts
“Colt”, Hackney: brutal subtext

“Zodiac Security”, Ealing: science and superstition

"Zodiac Security" burglar alarm, Ealing • The stories behind the various star signs are pretty convoluted, but they're all based on ancient folklore and superstition, so astrology is a fitting follow-up to my previous theme of mythological alarms. Zodiac is a Greek word for the constellations meaning "circle of animals", an idea drawn from the Babylonians, who first divided the heavens into 12 parts. It was originally an astronomical concept, but the great Romano-Egyptian scholar Ptolomy systemised the personality-based astrological system that remains hugely popular today. However, as we shall see, there are surprisingly few burglar alarms named after star signs – odd, as there are many good strong names: Taurus, Aries, Capricorn, Leo... though maybe not Cancer. I haven't even come across a security firm called Libra, and not name-checking the divine scales of justice seems a serious omission. So, unless security engineers are such a militantly rational lot that they won't even contemplate zodiac-based names, they're missing a trick in the burglar alarm branding stakes – and there's room to start an astrological trend. • Spotted: Ashbourne Parade, Ealing, London, W5, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Ealing Central and Acton Above: Look at all the brilliant potential burglar alarm logos on this 16th century woodcut showing the signs of the zodiac. They're just begging to be used...
“Zodiac Security”, Ealing: science and superstition

“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

“Atlantis”, Tower Hamlets: sunk without trace

"Atlantis Secure Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Even the ancient Greeks thought Atlantis was fictional, and they should have known because they probably invented it. Before Plato described the 9000-year-old lost city in his dialogue Timaeus of around 360 BC, there had been no recorded mention of the place, whereas myths usually have long, traceable histories. It seems likely he was using imaginary geography to make a political point – as Jonathan Swift did in Gulliver's Travels, or Sir Thomas More in Utopia – but the idea is so seductive that it remains with us today. It's quite a weird title for a burglar alarm (albeit one illustrated with a white fish and a shadowy shark, possibly a metaphor for burglar-catching); Atlantis has the opposite connotation to yesterday's triumphantly arising Phoenix, suggesting something that will sink catastrophically. Despite this it's a widely-used name, ironically popular with vessels: not only seagoing ones but the last operational space shuttle Atlantis, whose final flight is in July 2011 (tickets to view the launch are available from NASA). As for possible sites for the city of Atlantis, there's a new crackpot theory every year. More interesting are the real, eponymous places: the Atlantis Massif under the Atlantic, a dome of dense green rock extruded from the earth's deep mantle; 1198 Atlantis, a Mars-crossing asteroid orbiting quite near Earth; and the Atlantis Chaos, an area of turbulent Martian terrain featuring possible water gullies (all pictured below). Plato's imaginary island went a long, long way. • Spotted: Vyner Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Above: Digital images of real Atlantises. Top: the sub-Atlantic Atlantis Massif, from Washington University's Lost City deep-sea research site. Middle: orbit of the asteroid 1198 Atlantis from Nasa Jet Propulsion Lab's Small-Body Database Browser, which can animate orbits through time. Bottom: ripples and gullies in the Atlantis Chaos area of Mars, from University of Arizona's amazing HiRise Mars imaging site.
“Atlantis”, Tower Hamlets: sunk without trace

“Cannon” and “BAC”, Bristol: changing faces

"Cannon Bristol" and "BAC Fire and Security" burglar alarms, Bristol • A Cannon alarm surreally framed by two laurel-wreathed romanesque heads on a typically splendid Bristol building, which was pretty grimy when I first came across it in 2006 (top pic). I went back recently to see how it had fared, and discovered a spruced-up facade, and a change of alarm (middle pic) – in pictorial terms, I preferred the old Cannon. The building itself (bottom) is magnificent and strange, and features another pair of heads on the right, depicting a veiled woman and a wild-bearded man. The building's current occupier, a hairdresser, is appropriate to the heads, but I'd love to know who it was built for: some Victorian business with links in Araby, presumably. • Spotted: St Nicholas Street, Bristol, Avon, BS1, England, 2006 and 2011 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Cannon” and “BAC”, Bristol: changing faces

“Hoffman Security PLC”, Hounslow: cracking up

"Hoffman Security PLC" burglar alarm, Hounslow • Another alarm I've already featured in close-up (see WWII), but whose surroundings also deserve an airing. Nothing spectacular: just a subtle colour combination of faded pink, green and cream. Everything's cracking and falling apart, and even the 'g' has peeled off the sign. But that's sleepy Chiswick Mall for you (it's a demure riverside walk – not the kind of mall they have in America, or even Brent Cross). • Spotted: Chiswick Mall, Hounslow, London, W4, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brentford and Isleworth
“Hoffman Security PLC”, Hounslow: cracking up

“Javes”, Birchington-on-Sea: spider poo

"Javes Intruder Alarms" burglar alarm, Birchington-on-Sea • Rather than beautiful decay, this is colourful but slightly unpleasant decay. It looks as if in the distant past, someone attempted – god knows why – to decorate this rather old burglar alarm with a wicker basket and some dried flowers. Since then it has become a desiccated grime trap, festooned with cobwebs and spider poo (and believe me spiders leave a lot of poo: I have experience of this). Birchington-on-Sea, as its name suggests, is a seriously old-fashioned seaside town, the sort of place Miss Marple would have solved murders in the 1930s. So it's definitely a bit odd. But even so, this burglar alarm decoration is beyond bizarre. • Spotted: Town centre, Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, CT7, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Thanet North
“Javes”, Birchington-on-Sea: spider poo

“Crime Stop”, Hackney: crime start, more like

"Crime Stop" burglar alarm, Hackney • I've already featured a close-up of this red, drippy alarm under the theme The Law, but its environment is worth showing too. Did ever a door ever look less needy of a burglar alarm, and a "Crime Stop" one at that? Either the crime has already happened, or there's nothing worth nicking, and as for the surroundings – "Crime Start" might be a more accurate name. • Spotted: Downham Road, Hackney, London, N1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Crime Stop”, Hackney: crime start, more like

“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

“Hoffman Security PLC”, Hounslow: Dad’s Army

"Hoffman Security PLC" burglar alarm, Hounslow • I've included this nice logo in my World War II theme because not only do the arrows form a Union Jack, they look, coincidentally, very similar to the opening credits of the classic WWII-based sit-com Dad's Army, even using the same font (Cooper Black, as did the Blitz alarm a few days back). To be a PLC in the Public Limited Company sense, a firm requires a minimum share capital of £50k and must offer shares to the public, which is quite rare for a security startup. I became obsessed with finding out if Hoffmann really had been a "proper" PLC, and though there's very little on the web did manage to ascertain that it was a Middlesex company built up over 20 years by a guy called Erik Hoffman, who sold up to MRFS Group in 2006. However, the comment here informs me that Hoffmann, an Israeli, did indeed build up his eponymous business into a PLC, with a logo based on the joystick control of CCTV systems rather than a Union Jack. As for the much-loved Dad's Army credits (see the image below), they were in fact a last-minute compromise after the BBC objected to the original opening, which featured harrowing imagery of Nazis and refugees. The show's creators were very upset, but with hindsight it seems the BBC were right. • Spotted: Chiswick Mall, Hounslow, London, W4, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brentford and Isleworth Above: The Dad's Army credits featured British arrows retreating from Nazi ones
“Hoffman Security PLC”, Hounslow: Dad’s Army

“Chubb”, Hackney: the oldest brand of all

"Chubb" burglar alarm, Hackney • It's ironic that I selected this iconic blue Chubb box for its Modernist design, as it turns out to be the oldest brand name of all; and also, sadly, a blueprint for the decline of British industry at the hands of high finance over the last 40 years. The company was launched in 1804 by Charles Chubb, who started out selling ships' ironmongery, but moved into security when his brother Jeremiah invented a new type of lock. After gaining a Royal Warrant in the 1830s, the Chubb family enjoyed five generations of global growth, providing security for everything from the Crown Jewels to the Koh-i-Noor diamond to Winston Churchill's wartime papers. By the end of the 1960s the Wolverhampton-based company had swallowed up Rely-A-Bell and many other smaller rivals and was a respected bastion of British industry. According to ex-employee David Ibbs, the rot set in during the 1970s when Chubb damaged its finances by acquiring – under government urging – the failing Gross cash register business. And so, as the era of deregulation dawned, the weakened Chubb shifted from being a proud family-run manufacturer providing careers for life, to being the financial plaything of City moguls driven only by the bottom line. Starting with a misguided acquisition by Racal in 1984, Chubb demerged and remerged with other multinationals several times, "downsizing" (ie making skilled and loyal staff redundant) each time, and gradually splitting apart so that locks, safes and alarms ended up with different owners. Today, the alarms division is just a small part of American conglomerate United Technologies Corporation (UTC), while the other pieces are owned by Swedish multinationals. Chubb's last family boss, George Charles Hayter Chubb, aka the third Baron Hayter, was a highly-regarded Lords cross-bencher who tried to block Maggie Thatcher's destruction of the GLC, and once chaired the Design Council. Presumably his interest in design led to the 1970s introduction of this minimalist blue branding with its striking triangular box, known for obvious reasons as the "Delta". This powerful design has survived Chubb's many changes of ownership and lives on still, its current incarnation being a chunky-looking round-cornered Delta in posh navy plastic. In earlier times there was also a square blue metal box bearing the same logo, and I recently spotted a distressing new pentagonal variation. The example pictured here is a classic old metal Delta with faded paint and sharp corners, possibly dating from the 1980s. The (intentionally?) "chubby" initial C is, apparently, based on the front view of a mortice lock – a last poignant link to the glory days of the original Chubb brothers and their once-great British company. • Spotted: Kings Wharf, Hackney, London, N1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Chubb”, Hackney: the oldest brand of all

“RJC”, Southwark: protozoan ambiguity

"RJC" burglar alarm, Southwark • Amazing the level of abstraction the human brain can resolve: thus I can discern that this useless silhouette is meant to represent three bells, not some form of deep-sea protozoan. The firm's title is even more cryptic: at which letter should we start? Based on western reading conventions, it could be RJC if going top to bottom and left to right, JRC if followed strictly from left to right, or RCJ if going clockwise. I've plumped for the first option, but however you decode it, what it stands for is unknown. A study in ambiguity indeed. Oh, and note the tiny flecks of green paint on its base and sides – touching evidence that it's been carefully painted around at some point (it was found in Borough Market, where bankers buy vegetables priced in gold ingots, and practically everything's painted green). • Spotted: Park Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“RJC”, Southwark: protozoan ambiguity

“Crime Stop”, Hackney: the fine art of crime

Crime Stop burglar alarm, Hackney, 2006"Crime Stop" burglar alarm, Hackney • After a parade of shadowy intruders and pantomime burglars, the time has come to firmly lay down the law. Despite its simple message and drippy background, this manages to sum up the prime directive of all burglar alarms, albeit backwards: stop crime. I actually find its washed-out minimalism rather beautiful – it makes me think of stain paintings by Morris Louis or text works by Ed Ruscha. There's obviously something very, very wrong with me. • Spotted: Downham Road, Hackney, London, N1, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch Crime Stop burglar alarm, Hackney, 2006
“Crime Stop”, Hackney: the fine art of crime

“Teeth” sticker, Hackney: safety with a snarl

"North London Security" burglar alarm with teeth sticker, Hackney, 2006"North London Security Systems" burglar alarm with teeth sticker, Hackney, 2006 • A burglar alarm that bites, ha ha. There's something martial about this: a Vorticist V-for-victory searchlight flaring above a snarling green hulk-mouth baring tombstone teeth. This alarm should be on the front of the Imperial War Museum, not some grotty shopfront in Shoreditch. Cropped from the bottom of the picture is the immortal graffito "Fuck the Turner" (prize), which about sums up the area's Hoxton art-hipster concerns. Those young folk are lucky they never lived through the Blitz (I'm talking WWII here, not the 1980s night club) – they'd have had far more serious things to worry about. • Spotted: Kingsland Road, Hackney, London, E2, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch "North London Security" burglar alarm with teeth sticker, Hackney, 2006
“Teeth” sticker, Hackney: safety with a snarl

“Ssssh” sticker, Bristol: more mystery graffiti

Nameless burglar alarm with "Ssssh" sticker, Bristol, 2006 • Today, I intended writing an essay exploring the mutant dog stickers phenomenon introduced yesterday. However it's taking me longer than anticipated to research, so I'll post it in a couple more days. In the meantime, I'll feature the other burglar alarms I've found with graffiti-style stickers on them – not many, sad to say. This one is great though. It's from the same time and place as yesterday's dog sticker, so is possibly by the same person. It again looks a bit like a Banksy, and it's certainly witty enough to be by him – the face could be telling the burglar alarm to be quiet, but it could also be advising the burglar, or even warning drunken passersby to pipe down. It's also a bit reminiscent of Shepard Fairey's famous Obey Giant, but Bristol has a really thriving street art culture all its own, so it could be by any number of people. I'd love to get some further info on the artist behind this "Sssh" sticker, if anyone knows anything. None of the big Bristol graffiti blogs I could find had been updated very recently, but a good place to start is www.bristol-street-art.co.uk, which is beautifully designed and has a comprehensive list of links. • Spotted: Clifton area, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West
“Ssssh” sticker, Bristol: more mystery graffiti

“Shock”, Bristol: is this dog sticker a Banksy?

"Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006"Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006 • This charming dog-stickered burglar alarm is my all time favourite – and, just possibly, a Banksy. At first I thought those were butterflies above the dreamy labrador's head, but they're coins dropping into a slot: it's a drawing of an old-fashioned guide dog collection box, cleverly positioned on a Shorrock burglar alarm to make it read "Shock". So, why do I think it's a Banksy? Firstly, the style and pose of the dog's head – that confident line and slightly wistful, upwards-tilted look is something I associate with a lot of his figures. Secondly, I found it in Bristol, which is where Banksy is from. Thirdly, Banksy often depicts dogs. And fourthly – well, there is no fourth, but I've just always just half-thought it was a Banksy, and enjoyed the mystery. I've now discovered that there was spate of these photocopied dog stickers in 2006, all with their bodies redrawn in strange ways (this is the least mutated I've found) – and one of them did have a Banksy logo on it. However these other versions looked amateur, and any fool can xerox a Banksy logo, so the jury remains out. It's an interesting story, on which I'll post a separate visual essay shortly. In the meantime, I still don't know if this is a Banksy, but it's certainly a one-off, and I'm glad I spotted it. (Update: I later discovered it wasn't a Banksy – the full story is here.) • Spotted: Clifton area, Bristol, Avon, BS8, England, 2006 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bristol West "Shorrock" burglar alarm with dog sticker, Bristol, 2006
“Shock”, Bristol: is this dog sticker a Banksy?