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2010

“Hawk Limited”, Hackney: tattered cypher

"Hawk Limited" burglar alarm, Hackney • This tattered old bird is the only actual hawk in the "hawkish birds" section, and the best drawing too, doubtless some random bit of clip-art. I reckon it depicts a falcon, as hawk isn't a species, but a mere generic cypher representing all birds of prey except owls. Which makes the hawk the panther of the bird world. • Spotted: Mare Street, Hackney, London, E8, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Hackney South and Shoreditch
“Hawk Limited”, Hackney: tattered cypher

“Southern Safeguards”, Brighton: safe-smitten

"Southern Safeguards" burglar alarm, Brighton • Another spread eagle, and even more bonkers than yesterday's: what looks like a Southern Bald Eagle smitten by a massive and badly-drawn safe, in a rather literal reading of the firm's name, Southern Safeguards. Not the newest of items, judging by both the naive design and the moss growing along the top. • Spotted: St George's Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown
“Southern Safeguards”, Brighton: safe-smitten

“Eagle”, Merton: possibly a vulture

"Eagle" burglar alarm, Merton • Is it just me, or does this look more like a vulture than an eagle? Perhaps it's a bald eagle, so named for its white head. Pop fact: vultures have featherless heads to help them keep clean, because they're so often up to their necks in rotting flesh. Eeeuw. • Spotted: Merton High Street, Merton, London, SW19, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Wimbledon
“Eagle”, Merton: possibly a vulture

“Kestrel Alarms”, Brighton: through the keyhole

"Kestrel Alarms" burglar alarm, Brighton • Another Kestrel that's made a hostile takeover, this time of a firm called Keyhole Security, whose name resides in a giant keyhole shape – I need to find one of these unstickered for my "locksmithery" set. Despite sporting Lib-Dem orange, yesterday's Kestrel was in the Conservative consituency of Brighton Kemptown, while this example lives in the only Green constituency in England, Brighton Pavilion. Both Brighton constituencies, along with my blog, will be mightily shaken up if the proposed boundary changes come into effect, morphing into Lewes & Brighton East (likely Tory) and Brighton Pavilion & Hove (likely Labour). In other words, bye bye Greens. (There's a brilliant map from the Guardian here showing the changes.) • Spotted: North Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Green constituency of Brighton Pavilion
“Kestrel Alarms”, Brighton: through the keyhole

“Ace”, Southwark: trapped

"Ace" burglar alarm, Southwark • My final cage is an accidental one – a bondage burglar alarm trapped behind some random piping. It's on an taxi garage under the vast railway viaduct that scythes through Bankside in London. Painted a jaunty red, it's a rare survivor of the old-skool businesses that used to make this area so interesting, now all being replaced by identikit glass apartment blocks aimed at a seemingly endless supply of rich international students. In my day, students lived in slums heated by leaving the oven door open till the gas meter ran out – those were the days! (Note, I am not old enough for it to have been poisonous "town gas".) But at least we got grants... • Spotted: Southwark Bridge Road, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Ace”, Southwark: trapped

“JMJ”, Sheffield: ill-fitting

"JMJ" burglar alarm, Sheffield • Thanks to a comment on yesterday's JB-Eye post, I now know that its red, horizontal-barred cage was an off-the-peg number. So what about this ill-fitting jobbie? Was it originally made for a jewel-shaped box (I wish someone would tell me what the proper name is for that shape) which later got replaced? Or is this the only shape you can get? As an aside, I cannot say how stupid I felt saying to my travelling companion, "hang on, I have to take a photo of that burglar alarm in an ill-fitting cage". I have had many such moments, but I remember this unedifying spot, next to an unpleasant bar surrounded by broken glass, as a particular low point. • Spotted: Eldon Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central
“JMJ”, Sheffield: ill-fitting

“CTS”, Glasgow: half-cut

"CTS" burglar alarm, Glasgow • This bit of Glasgow's so posh, they only needed to cage half the burglar alarm, ha ha. It's actually above a doorway in a railway arch, hence the artistic composition, which looks like the kind of "intervention" you might find in a pop-up gallery in a multi-storey car park (I'm not making this up). As it happens, there was a pop-up gallery in the next-door railway arch (it was during an art festival), so who knows – maybe it actually was a piece of art. • Spotted: Merchant City area, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central
“CTS”, Glasgow: half-cut

“Acorn Security Systems”, Derby: nuts!

"Acorn Security Systems" burglar alarm, Derby • In the absence of a zebra, yak, xenops (a type of bird, fact fans), warthog, vulture, unicorn (because I already did one here), or tapir, the final beast in this alphabetical creature feature is a squirrel, representing Acorn Security Systems (whose acronym would be ASS, like this alarm). To which all I can say is... nuts. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South Above: a real squirrel (photo by Mariappan Jawaharlal)
“Acorn Security Systems”, Derby: nuts!

“Raptor Security”, Aylesbury: stabby talon

"Raptor Security" burglar alarm, Aylesbury • I get the feeling I'm missing something here. What on earth is this nasty thing meant to be – a tusk, a fin, a hook? Given the name, it's probably a talon, the defining factor of a raptor. Thanks to the film Jurassic Park, the word is now associated with Velociraptor dinosaurs, but it was originally a term meaning bird of prey, or "fast predator". Which is obviously burglar alarm-appropriate, but this creepy image of a stabbily-drawn talon clawing its way out of a horrible hole is not a pleasant one. It's a good match for the feel-bad town of Aylesbury where I found it, though. • Spotted: High Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Aylesbury Above: real raptor talons (photo by Josh Bishop)
“Raptor Security”, Aylesbury: stabby talon

“Baker Hart”, Haringey: venison pie

"Baker Hart" burglar alarm, Haringey • I've slipped this into the middle of the animal run because it's such an appalling photograph. I include it because it's my only example of a stag, aka a hart, here clearly illustrating one proprietor' surname. Technically they should have included a picture of a baker too, or perhaps a steaming bun, or even a venison pie, but I'll concede that that might have looked less striking. The reason for the photo's blurriness is that I hate photographing alarm boxes on houses, because the owner is – understandably – liable to rush out and give me a bollocking. So this image was snatched on the hoof, sneak-thief-like, from its neat white house in a leafy lane of Highgate as the late afternoon sun bathed its macho, rutting sounder. • Spotted: Jacksons Lane, Haringey, London, N6, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green Above: a real hart, aka a red stag (photo by Bill Ebbesen)
“Baker Hart”, Haringey: venison pie

“Renard Systems”, Winchester: docile

"Renard Systems" burglar alarm, Winchester • Renard is the French for fox - less embarrassing in English than the German Fuchs, under discussion here. It derives from Reynard, who was a cunning fox-cum-peasant-hero in a hugely poplar series of medieval satirical tales, always getting one over on the big-wigs. To this day foxes are celebrated as being smart and cunning, but they are also viewed by many as murderous thieves – so it's never clear on burglar alarms whether the fox represents the hunter, or the hunted. This one has a rather docile expression, and I'm guessing Renard is the proprietor's name. • Spotted: Town centre, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Winchester
“Renard Systems”, Winchester: docile

“Badger”, Hounslow: Albanian thief

"Badger Security Systems" burglar alarm, Hounslow • The grumpy TB-spreading badger has more relevance to burglar alarms than you may imagine. Firstly, it defends its sett ferociously, attacking even bears and wolves. Secondly, according to a very dubious entry on Wikipedia, its name possibly derives, via Romanian and Thracian, from the Albanian word for "thief" (though more conventional wisdom has it that it derives from French, and is related to the white "badge" on its forehead). And thirdly, its old English nickname Brock (from the Celtic "broc", meaning "grey"), is – ta da – also a make of burglar alarm, albeit long defunct. Of course, Badger may just be the burglar alarm proprietor's surname – in which case it has nothing to do with the animal at all, but refers either to the Domesday-listed Shropshire village of Badger, or to the medieval trade of bagger, or bag-maker. Whatever the story, it's a very old word; and it's a very old burglar alarm, too. • Spotted: Harvard Road, Hounslow, London, W4, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brentford and Isleworth Above: a real badger (photo by BadgerHero)
“Badger”, Hounslow: Albanian thief

“Armadillo”, Brighton: abject but armoured

"Armadillo Brighton" burglar alarm, Brighton • I love this alarm. A completely abject-looking armadillo, mournfully slouching above some stylish compressed type. (Being an insect-eater, it is possibly pining for the fly on the Ape alarm, below.) I've found another one in Aylesbury, which is newer than this and uses the Cooper Black font above the same illustration; and a quick web search reveals that the doughty little fellow represents Armadillo Safeguards, a 25-year-old firm based in Sutton, Surrey. Comical though it may be, unlike many burglar alarm creatures the armadillo at least has some relevance to the security trade, as it rolls up into an impenetrable armoured ball when threatened – although its guardian credentials are somewhat hampered by terrible eyesight. It falls into what I think of as the "defensive" rather than "offensive" category of anti-crime identity – somewhat abstract distinctions I shall explore further one day.• Spotted: Eastern Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Brighton Kemptown Above: A real armadillo (photo by www.birdphotos.com)
“Armadillo”, Brighton: abject but armoured

“Direct”, Beckenham: terror eyes

"Direct Security" burglar alarm, Beckenham • Aha, there's room on top of this burglar alarm for a really avant-garde pigeon deterrent. Nothing as mundane as spikes, though: how about a pretend owl with a rotating head at £16.99 (below), an ultrasonic sound system for just £880.55, or – barmiest of all – a giant orange balloon with animated "terror eyes", only £70.90? No? Kind of shows why pigeon spikes are so popular. • Spotted: High Street, Beckenham, Kent, BR3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Beckenham Above, barmy so-called bird scarers: swivelly-headed owl, ultrasonic sound system and giant orange "terror eyes" ball
“Direct”, Beckenham: terror eyes

“3D”, Winchester: WWII spike machine

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

“Globe”, Lewisham: wonkily cowering

"Globe Security" burglar alarm, Lewisham • What I like about this is the contrast between aspiration and reality (one of the driving factors behind my entire burglar alarm collection, in fact). The sounder belongs to proudly-named Globe Security, suggesting megalomaniacal international reach with its image of an entire hemisphere. And yet here it is, wonkily cowering in a back alley of Deptford, South London – not even armed with its own guano deterrent but lurking behind a filthy pigeon-spiked security light, and semi-obscuring a ventilation grille. Aah, Deptford: home to half the world's races, quite possibly, but hardly a glamorous hub of global domination. • Spotted: Resolution Way, Lewisham, London, SE8, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford
“Globe”, Lewisham: wonkily cowering

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

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

“Essex”, Tower Hamlets: netted

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

“Wilkin Alarms”, Sheffield: yellow peril

"Wilkin Alarms Sheffield" burglar alarm, Sheffield • The common theme of all these poo-struck alarms is the colour yellow, which perhaps in some mysterious way loosens birdy bowels. This virulent lemon example really does look like a piece of contemporary art. Which I realise isn't a great advertisement for contemporary art. • Spotted: North Church Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central
“Wilkin Alarms”, Sheffield: yellow peril

“Co-op Sunwin”, Stoke-On-Trent: brutalist tears

"United Co-op Sunwin Security" burglar alarm, Stoke-On-Trent • My family are from the Midlands, so I know that despite spawning heavy metal and Robbie Williams, the locals are decent people. But the sad fact is that a lot of the area is visually pretty dispiriting, and nowhere more so than the brutalist townscapes of the Potteries (except they don't make much pottery there any more, which is part of the problem). This about sums it up: a vast expanse of grey wall punctuated by a worn-out Co-op burglar alarm, rain-streaked with a white substance that could be pigeon shit, leached-out concrete, or the tears of a decommissioned lime kiln. • Spotted: Hanley town centre, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Stoke on Trent Central
“Co-op Sunwin”, Stoke-On-Trent: brutalist tears

“Securebase”, Islington: abstract chain

"Securebase" burglar alarm, Islington • I reckon this is an abstract reference to chain links. It's quite clever if so, reading as both a small white S in the middle, a bigger blue S around it (making the ever-popular SS trope), with maybe the hint of a B, plus two chain links and the visual impression of something tightly twisted up. Though I'm doubtless reading far too much into what is essentially a pretty dull design. • Spotted: Wedmore Gardens, Islington, London, N19, England, 2011 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
“Securebase”, Islington: abstract chain

“PM Security Systems”, Brighton: time and tied

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

“Locktec”, Tower Hamlets: ultra boring

"Locktec Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Why do so many dull typographic lock-related designs use blue-and-white Gill Sans Ultra Bold? This is the third example I've found that's set in the 1920s font – see also Bath Key Security and Strathand – and all three are ultra boring. There's a more interesting recent Locktec design depicting a roaring lion, but I'm saving that for a later category. To compound the tedium, it's a blurred photo – always a sign that I was feeling a mite exposed when taking the shot. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Locktec”, Tower Hamlets: ultra boring

“AES”, Merton: jaunty padlock

"AES" burglar alarm, Merton • This chunky but unremarkable design has wormed its way into the Locksmithery category thanks to a jaunty padlock in the bottom right hand corner. On the company website the logo is a bit more flashy, with the padlock in photographic colour, and the letters AES inscribed on its front. But although we learn that AES is a Cheam-based family company formed in 1984, there's no explanation of what the initials actually stand for: it's just another unexplained acronym. • Spotted: Kingston Road, Merton, London, SW19, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Wimbledon
“AES”, Merton: jaunty padlock

“Lockrite Security”, Aylesbury: 1970s mom

"Lockrite Security" burglar alarm, Aylesbury • This was found in Aylesbury, which seemed to me a shabby, sullen and faintly menacing place, despite being the county town of posh Berkshire. A brief Google search on crap towns shows that I am not alone in this assessment, but luckily crap towns are prime hunting grounds for old burglar alarms. The naive monogram on this one looks like the fabric design from a cheap 1970s A-line crimplene skirt, which ironically makes it the height of fashion, as the hideous-sounding "1970s mom" look is very modish right now. In fact everything about this alarm cries out "1970s mom", from the naff name to the cheesy font. Which is why I rather like it. • Spotted: Cambridge Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Aylesbury
“Lockrite Security”, Aylesbury: 1970s mom

“Briar”, Cambridge: bonkers but brilliant

"Briar" burglar alarm, Cambridge • Here's a newer version of yesterday's brilliantly bonkers Briar Alarm logo, with the two padlocks joined to make a more convincing B, less keyholey keyholes, and some superfluous streamlines around the edge. The words "Cambridge" and "alarm" have also disappeared, presumably – as discussed in other recent posts – due to the concepts of local offices and humble burglar alarms being considered outmoded by today's high-tech security practitioners (though customers may feel differently). It's still a classic, and as I commented in my essay on silver alarms, this super-shiny box makes even such a patently absurd monogram look stylish. • Spotted: Regent Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Briar”, Cambridge: bonkers but brilliant

“Briar Alarm”, Cambridge: bondage Abba

"Briar Alarm Cambridge" burglar alarm, Cambridge • Bonkers but brilliant: two sideways padlocks making an Abba-esque reflected B. The B stands for Briar, which suggests roses rather than bondage accessories, and could therefore more appropriately have been represented by a thorny B, evoking barbed wire as well as spiky stems. But that wouldn't have been as much fun as this surreal slice of locksmithery. • Spotted: Hills Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Briar Alarm”, Cambridge: bondage Abba

“Jensen Security Systems”, Cambridge: wheel clamp

"Jensen Security Systems" burglar alarm, Cambridge • Today I proceed from keys to locks, which on burglar alarms are usually presented as keyholes or padlocks. This vintage sounder combines both, with two Js reflected round a keyhole to create a padlock-cum-shield. Sadly the logo looks more like a chunky wheel clamp, which despite sharing a name with 1970s super-car the Jensen Interceptor and (sort of) top racing car driver Jenson Button, isn't the world's most reassuring image. • Spotted: Regent Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Jensen Security Systems”, Cambridge: wheel clamp

“Keyways”, Manchester: reductive redesign

"Keyways" burglar alarm, Manchester • Here's an updated, less-basic version of yesterday's Keyways Alarm, though the obsolete 0161 Manchester code indicates it's still quite old. It's a more sophisticated design, although the Greek key aspect has been somewhat lost due to the white-on-white portion of the spiral (unless it's just faded). Also missing is the word "alarm" – I've noticed that when firms modernise their identities, that's usually the first thing to go. Presumably mere burglar alarms are considered hopelessly outmoded in today's world of high-tech multi-functional security systems. Thanks to a nice comment from Keyways' boss Mike Greaves on yesterday's post, I now know that this classical key reference was chosen by his late father Brian in the 1960s, and is absolutely intentional; it relates to the firm's origins in developing a specialised form of key safe, of which there's a potted history on the informative Keyways website. That geometric spiral was a cleverly-chosen and far-sighted piece of branding, because unlike all the other keys depicted in this Locksmithery section, Greek keys – being both abstract, and so ancient they're effectively timeless – don't date. • Spotted: Canal path, Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, Lancashire, M4, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Manchester Central
“Keyways”, Manchester: reductive redesign

“Keyways Alarms”, Manchester: erudite classicism

"Keyways Alarms" burglar alarm, Manchester • We've had visual keys, verbal keys, and now, from Manchester's "gay village" of Canal Street, an abstract key. It's a Greek key to be precise, as featured in this frieze below a vintage Panda sounder in Liverpool. According to Wikipedia, the correct term is a "meander" pattern or Greek fret (which sounds like a bailout-related sulk), though I've never seen those terms used in the UK. Whatever, it's an erudite visual reference for a burglar alarm, although the design is otherwise pretty basic. • Spotted: Canal Street, Manchester, Lancashire, M1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Manchester Central
“Keyways Alarms”, Manchester: erudite classicism

“Key Stone Security”, Sheffield: classic caper

"Key Stone Security" burglar alarm, Sheffield • Architecturally speaking, a key stone is the piece at the top of an arch which holds it up. However, given it's on a vintage burglar-catching device, this instead suggests the Keystone Kops – not in their original 1912 silent film guise, but the classic 1983 Atari "video game cartridge" Keystone Kapers, in which Officer Keystone Kelly has to apprehend light-fingered Harry Hooligan (who looks like a typical "pantomime burglar") before he flees a department store. It's not the first alarm I've come across that conjures up ancient computer games: there are also a couple suspiciously resembling Pac-Men• Spotted: North Church Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central
“Key Stone Security”, Sheffield: classic caper

“Key Alarms”, Old Coulsdon: urine-hued simplicity

"Key Alarms" burglar alarm, Old Coulsdon • We now move from visual keys to verbal keys, and this is as basic as it gets: the ragged urine-hued simplicity of Key Alarms, yet another aged specimen from the half-timbered land of superannuated security systems that is Old Coulsdon. • Spotted: Coulsdon Road, Old Coulsdon, Surrey, CR5, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Croydon South
“Key Alarms”, Old Coulsdon: urine-hued simplicity

“Lockstock Alarm”, Old Coulsdon: stylish shape

"Lockstock Alarm" burglar alarm, Old Coulsdon • Along with Radam, this unusual vintage alarm is another locksmithery winner: the highly stylised key logo wouldn't look out of place on a 1960s Scandinavian boutique. The nearest I can find to such a shape in real life is the so-called paracentric key, which has a slot up the middle and complicated teeth – however not as spiky as these. The name "Lockstock" presumably derives from the phrase "lock, stock and barrel", meaning "the whole lot"; however although it sounds plausibly lock-related, the saying in fact refers to musket parts. • Spotted: Coulsdon Road, Old Coulsdon, Surrey, CR5, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Croydon South
“Lockstock Alarm”, Old Coulsdon: stylish shape

“Strathand”, Glasgow: dual-keyed doppleganger

"Strathand" burglar alarm, Glasgow • This uninspired design scrapes into the locksmithery category because its crossed keys have been reproduced directly from yesterday's vintage SOS alarm – the proof being the tiny S just visible below the keys in both designs. Strathand is a well-established family firm based in Paisley, Scotland, though what their relationship to SOS was, or indeed whether one of the letters in SOS stood for Strathand, I haven't been able to ascertain – although I have learned, for what it's worth, that this is a Texecom Odyssey 1E external sounder. • Spotted: Merchant City area, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central
“Strathand”, Glasgow: dual-keyed doppleganger

“SOS”, Glasgow: keys of heaven

"SOS" burglar alarm, Glasgow • After a run of single keys come two crossed castle keys on a shield-shaped lock escutcheon. In Roman Catholic tradition, crossed keys represent the silver and gold keys of heaven, given by Jesus to St Peter as a symbol of holy power. In heraldry, they are always presented in saltire – that is, arranged in a St Andrew's Cross, as here – and can be read as a symbol of Papal authority. Given that this alarm was found in Glasgow, a city long simmering with Catholic versus Protestant sectarianism, and also capital of Scotland, whose flag is a blue-and-white St Andrew's cross, the symbolism may not be coincidence. • Spotted: Govan Road, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G51, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow South West
“SOS”, Glasgow: keys of heaven

“Home Counties Monitored Security”, Islington: smug

"Home Counties Monitored Security" burglar alarm, Islington • This is a grainy digital enlargement, as the box was positioned high up on a block of private flats (you never see alarms on council flats). It's the most modern alarm I've found depicting a key, which means that in design terms it's old-fashioned. It's also the only key with flat teeth, denoting a chunky lever lock rather than a dainty but less-secure pin-tumbler one. Note also a little house roof over the letter "H", emphasising the "Home" in that smug term, "Home Counties" – where does that leave all the other counties, then? So, a paean to stolid home ownership and southern civic pride, on a supremely boring alarm. • Spotted: Crouch Hill, Islington, London, N4, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington North
“Home Counties Monitored Security”, Islington: smug

“Radam”, Tower Hamlets: genteel locksmithery

"Radam Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This vintage alarm, found near Petticoat Lane market, is my favourite key example. Although presumably dating from the 1960s, the lettered key has a pre-war look, evoking a genteel age of locksmithery – you can almost imagine a butler answering the alarm bell. There's attention to detail, too: the grooves on the shaft are streamlined into the design, and the notches on the blade echo the "am" of "Radam" – which sounds like a completely made-up name. • Spotted: Goulston Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Radam”, Tower Hamlets: genteel locksmithery

“Argus”, Lewisham: a hundred-eyed giant

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

“AFA Minerva EMI”, Lambeth: warrior woman

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

“Orion Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: myth meets Pac-Man

"Orion Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This naive but multi-layered design recalls two mythical figures: Orion and Pac-Man. Ostensibly a monogram comprising an O and an A, it's probably meant to represent a pyramid in a circular night sky with a crescent moon overhead. Apart from the night sky, it's hard to see how this connects with the Greek hero Orion, a giant hunter blinded for raping a princess, healed by the sun, then killed by a scorpion and turned into a constellation by Zeus. There are few reliable descriptions of Orion, but we know he wasn't a big black blob. However, the design also looks disturbingly like a Pac-Man with a winking eye, chomping his way down the alarm. Developed in Japan in 1979 and originally called Pakkuman, it's fair to say that the genre-launching yellow-and-black ghost-munching video game has achieved legendary status. The name is based on paku-paku, Japanese slang for lip-smacking eating (equivalent to "nom-nom-nom"), and the fact that the avatar looks like a part-eaten pizza is no coincidence, because according to its inventor Tōru Iwatani, that's what it's based on. This is the second Pac-Man-like alarm I've featured: the first was JB-Eye, and no doubt the game was a formative entertainment for both designers. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Above: Orion v Pac-Man. Left: Orion and his constellation by astronomer Johannes Hevelius from his celestial catalogue "Uranographia" (1690). Right: fashionably geek Pac-Man t-shirt available from Worm Sign designs.
“Orion Alarms”, Tower Hamlets: myth meets Pac-Man

“Samson Technology”, Derby: Philistines beware

"Samson Technology Alarm Systems" burglar alarm, Derby • So, a burglar alarm named after a blind, randy, brutally-strong murderer, albeit one who has inspired great art and literature, pop musicians as diverse as Tom Jones and Eyeless in Gaza, and golden syrup. Although there are many parallels for super-powerful heroes in ancient Eurasian mythology, most famously Heracles, Samson is a specifically Hebrew figure who springs from the Old Testament and associated texts. He was an incredibly disruptive presence: a philandering Philistine-killing machine, embroiled in the intractable middle-eastern turmoil that continues to this day. After Delilah cut off his hair and his strength, allowing the Philistines to stab out his eyes and enslave him in Gaza, he still managed to topple a temple on them in an ingenious pre-gunpowder version of suicide bombing. But, had you hired him as a burglar deterrent (and not been a Philistine), I am sure he would have worked out excellently. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South Above: Samson – scenes from a life. Left: Delilah cuts off his hair in a detail of "Samson and Delilah" (c.1530) by Lucas Cranach the Elder, from the Met. Middle: a lion Samson killed en route to his wedding, from the famous Lyle's Golden Syrup "lion and bees" tin. Right: pulling down the temple of Dagon in "Death of Samson" (1865) by Gustav Doré, from "The Doré Gallery of Bible Illustrations" vol 3, scanned online at Project Gutenberg.
“Samson Technology”, Derby: Philistines beware

“Phoenix”, Sheffield: Phoenix Arizona

"Phoenix" burglar alarm, Sheffield • Perhaps reborn from yesterday's Phoenix, and unusually decorative for a burglar alarm, this tattoo-like design looks more Phoenix Arizona than ancient Greece. But though grandly-plumaged  birds such as the storm-bringing Thunderbird figure heavily in Native American culture, there is no equivalent of the phoenix rebirth myth, suggesting it developed in Eurasia after early humans had populated the Americas. Of course humans came that way again later, bringing their Eurasian diseases and resurrection legends with them; and thus the modern metropolis of Phoenix was born, so named because it arose from the long-abandoned ruins of a pre-Columbian city. Amazing how these Assyrian legends get around. • Spotted: Union Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central Top row: phoenix tattoo designs reminiscent of this alarm. Bottom row: Native American birds – not related to Phoenixes, but looking similar. Bottom left:Bird with Red Snake” (1920) by Awa Tsireh from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC. Bottom right: painting of Kiowa Eagle Dancer by Stephen [Qued Koi] Mopope (1898-1974) from the Adobe Gallery, Santa Fe.
“Phoenix”, Sheffield: Phoenix Arizona

“Phoenix Security Doncaster”, Chelsea: rare old bird

"Phoenix Security Doncaster" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • A very old Phoenix, which – if it accords with legend – is the only one of its kind, and will soon set itself on fire. In the Greco-Assyrian myth which gives this device its name, the crimson-plumed firebird is the sole representative of its species, and lives for 500 years. When it feels itself getting old, it climbs onto a fragrant DIY pyre of frankinsence and myrrh, faces the sun and bursts exuberantly into flame, soaring reborn from the ashes. In some versions it's a small grub that emerges from the ashes, which after three days turns into a new phoenix; which, in further variants, carries the embalmed ashes of its parent to an altar in the Egyptian sun-worshipping city of Heliopolis. Although the estimable Greek historian Herodotus was bluntly sceptical about much of this fanciful tale, its clear parallels with Biblical accounts of the resurrection of Jesus made it a hit with early Catholic artists, hence its inclusion in European iconography, and eventually on burglar alarms. Generally considered benevolent despite their fierce looks, phoenixes are today a metaphor for anything that renews, such as a "phoenix firm" which declares bankruptcy, dumps its debt obligations, and restarts anew – hopefully not the fate of Phoenix Security. • Spotted: Cadogan Street, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chelsea and Fulham Above: Some even older phoenixes. Top row: during and after resurrection, from the beautiful 12th century Aberdeen Bestiary. Bottom left: Coptic Egyptian stone phoenix from the Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam. Bottom right: a magnificent printed phoenix from Friedrich Justin Bertuch's stunningly-illustrated educational partwork "Bilderbuch für Kinder" (1790-1830).
“Phoenix Security Doncaster”, Chelsea: rare old bird

“Siren Security”, Tower Hamlets: Fairfield maiden

"Siren Security" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • Yesterday I featured a mermaid from Fairfield Shipping Offices, Glasgow, and today – ushering in the theme of mythological burglar alarms – I give you a mermaid from Fairfield Road, London. Siren Security is a play on words, obviously, between the blaring sirens of the law and the sweet-voiced temptresses said to serenade sailors to their doom, but sirens and mermaids are not strictly synonymous. Though the word is Latin, sirens come to the modern world from Greek mythology: as described in Homer's Odyssey, written around 800 BC, they were winged, sharp-clawed bird-women who lived amidst the rotting corpses of their victims (which would certainly be a deterrent to burglars). The fish-woman comes from even older Assyrian tales of the popular sea goddess Atargatis (called Derketo by the Greeks), disseminated to seaports far and wide by Syrian merchants. Pagan Europeans got these ideas all muddled up with their own folkloric tales, not quelled by a dose of Christianity, so that today in many languages the word for mermaid is "sirena", or similar. In Haitian voodoo there is even a spirit or lwa called La Sirene, a European mermaid mixed up with West African beliefs, often pictured with a siren-like trumpet (see below for examples of all these ladies). Whatever her origin, Siren Security's logo is a charmingly modest mermaid, shown clutching an unidentified tablet – maybe the same one the bizarre wasp-man is holding on Wilton Alarms. And while there are plenty of of male images on burglar alarms, this is one of only two depictions of women I have found, the other being Liberty. • Spotted: Fairfield Road, Tower Hamlets, London, E3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow Top left: "The Siren of Canosa", a Greek-style siren (note bird-feet) circa 300 BC from the National Archaeological Museum of Spain. Top right: John William Waterhouse's foxy "A Mermaid" (1900), from the Royal Academy, London. Below: a Haitian sequinned voodoo banner depicting horn-blowing water spirit La Sirene.
“Siren Security”, Tower Hamlets: Fairfield maiden

Nameless shipyard alarms, Glasgow: wrecked grandeur

Nameless burglar alarms on Fairfield Shipyard Offices, Glasgow • Yesterday's gritty scene was photographed en route to this, the amazing derelict Fairfield Shipyard Offices in the once-great shipbuilding area of Govan. A vestige of the industry survives: beyond these offices lies a vast BAE shipyard currently starting assembly of a leviathan aircraft-carrier for the Navy. Several random burglar alarms dot the Fairfield facade – there's a red AFA drum in the foreground of the top image, but most are nameless white shields. I was lucky enough to get inside the grand boardroom complex for an art installation (art can take you to some brilliant places), and despite being so ricketty we had to wear hard hats, its Edwardian splendour reminded me of the interior of County Hall in London, which briefly housed the Saatchi Gallery. There's a plan to restore the Grade A-listed building for creative and community use, a valiant but daunting task, even though it's only been unoccupied since 2001. I include the bottom photo, a detail of the main entrance, because of the beautiful mermaid carvings, which lead neatly on to tomorrow's theme: burglar alarms and mythology. • Spotted: Fairfield Shipyard Offices, Govan Road, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G51, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow South West
Nameless shipyard alarms, Glasgow: wrecked grandeur

“IME”, Glasgow: double jeopardy

"IME" burglar alarm, Glasgow• A shop with two names and two alarms. The grey Govan Pharmacy sign, top, looks decades old and may even relate to the original use of the premises. The brash Govan Carpets sign beneath it is obviously recent, but what riches lie inside to require not one but two burglar alarms I can't imagine. I went to check them out on Google Street View (below) but came back none the wiser, except that they used to have ADT alarms. The rest of the imposing but gritty street consists mainly of closed units, bookies, alcohol establishments and a very prominent funeral parlour. • Spotted: Govan Road, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G51, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow South West Above: the scene (shot some while back) on Google Street View – note ADT alarms and coverless bell box on the unoccupied left-hand unit
“IME”, Glasgow: double jeopardy

“Rogers”, Glasgow: fruity

"Rogers" burglar alarm, Glasgow • A swag of giant dusty fruit looms over a man in a very on-trend split pencil skirt, who seems to have attracted a fiery red friend – all of which I hope is not a metaphor for the Scottish national psyche (I won't dwell on alternate readings of the word Rodgers). The imposing russet standstone brickwork is a dead giveaway that this building is in Glasgow, which like all post-colonial ports is full of fine decaying architecture. • Spotted: Merchant City area, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central
“Rogers”, Glasgow: fruity

“Chloride Granley”, Hackney: stencil graffiti

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

“Olympic Alarms”, Bolton: funereal moss

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

“CG Computa Guard”, Bolton: weeping guards

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

“Brocks Burglar Alarm”, Southwark: flame-grilled

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

“ARG Security”, Islington: bouquet of barbed wire

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

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

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

“Ambassador”, Southwark: jewel-bright decay

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

“Churchill Security Systems”, Old Coulsdon: faded flag

"Churchill Security Systems" burglar alarm, Old Coulsdon • A couple of weeks ago I featured an older Churchill alarm in much better condition. And now, at the end of my World War II series, here's a more recent Churchill sounder looking distinctly the worse for wear. It was found on that cliche of English suburbia, a half-timbered Tudorbethan villa (pictured below), always enjoyable in conjunction with overtly patriotic alarms. The flag still stands proudly, but the red of the Union Jack has faded away – much like the real Churchill, who was unceremoniously booted out of office as soon as WWII ended. • Spotted: Coulsdon Road, Old Coulsdon, Surrey, CR5, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Croydon South Above: The flag-waving Churchill in its splendid Tudorbethan setting
“Churchill Security Systems”, Old Coulsdon: faded flag

“Bluebird Securities”, Beckenham: white cliffs

"Bluebird Securities" burglar alarm, Beckenham"There'll be bluebirds over
/ The white cliffs of Dover / 
Tomorrow, just you wait and see. / There'll be love and laughter / And peace ever after / Tomorrow, when the world is free." In fact lyricist Nat Burton's words never came true, because – as discussed alongside the yellow version of this alarm – bluebirds are only found in North America, home of the song's writers. Which didn't stop this Battle of Britain spirit-raiser becoming a massive UK hit for Vera Lynn in 1942 (not to mention Glen Miller and several other artistes in the US), and remaining Britain's most celebrated WWII song ever since. • Spotted: High Street, Beckenham, Kent, BR3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Beckenham
“Bluebird Securities”, Beckenham: white cliffs

“Allied Security Systems”, Tower Hamlets: John Mills

"Allied Security Systems" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • After three days of dastardly SS alarms, time to wheel out the plucky Allied forces, doubtless led by Sir John Mills. This sturdy old Eurobell sounder actually does resemble some kind of ancient air raid early warning device, what with its giant front-mounted red bulb – the only one of this design I've ever come across. The Allied powers morphed into the United Nations at the end of World War II, and eventually their ex-foes, the Axis powers, joined up too. Axis would be a pretty good name for a burglar alarm, but so far I haven't found one. • Spotted: Wentworth Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow
“Allied Security Systems”, Tower Hamlets: John Mills

“WSS Alarms”, Glasgow: not the Waffen SS

"WSS Alarms" burglar alarm, Glasgow • I rather like this naive typographic design, which – presumably by accident – stands for Waffen SS and is even in a classic Nazi colourway. The thorny circle of Ws looks like a ring of razor wire protecting the SS, and – although it clearly dates from the days before the World Wide Web caught on – lends it a subliminal online feel. It also bars the logo from my "basic" category, as it requires a certain amount of graphic know-how to put type on a circle, no matter how low-tech the end result. • Spotted: Merkland Street, Partick, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G11, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow North
“WSS Alarms”, Glasgow: not the Waffen SS

“Spitfire Security Systems”, Chelsea: basic namesake

"Spitfire Security Systems" burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea • So far this week we've had patriotic WWII alarms celebrating Britannia, Churchill, Blitz – and now comes the Battle of Britain, courtesy of Spitfire Security Systems. I first discovered one of these in Westminster in 2002, but – as with my first Blitz alarm – took a useless photo. This is the only one of the same design I have come across since then, again found in a true blue Tory borough, and despite its age in a pristine condition worthy of the Imperial War Museum, which of course houses a real Spitfire. The Spitfire plane was noted for its superb design, but the same can't be said of this alarm namesake, which looks like a five-minute job knocked out on a word processor, and gains entry a category I've dubbed "basic", reserved for the most simple type-only designs. The fact that the rudimentary logo is set in a centred serif font with a rule underneath elevates it to the superior end of the "basic" category, but basic it is nevertheless. • Spotted: Godfrey Street, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Chelsea and Fulham
“Spitfire Security Systems”, Chelsea: basic namesake

“Blitz Security Group”, Southwark: shiny bomber

"Blitz Security Group" burglar alarm, Southwark • After taking yesterday's incredibly blurred photo of a Blitz alarm in 2002, I was always on the lookout for other examples, but never ran across any. When I decided to start writing this blog, I became so desperate to shoot a sharper version that I made a pilgrimage all the way back to the Surrey shopping parade where I'd originally found it, but the Blitz alarm was there no more. And despite an extensive exploration of the surrounding Old Coulsdon area, during which I snapped lots of other good vintage burglar alarms (to the understandable suspicion of several locals), I still came home Blitz-less. I assumed it was a small Surrey firm that had gone out of business many years ago, hence my failure to find one. So imagine my surprise when, a few weeks ago, I spotted a shiny new Blitz alarm just a short stroll from my home, in a road I visit practically every day. A brief recce turned up several more in the Waterloo area, which scuppers my theory that Blitz alarms only appeal in Conservative boroughs; but note that London SE1 is divided between Labour Lambeth and Lib-Dem Southwark, and so far I have only found Blitzes on the Lib-Dem side of the street – and they are in coalition with the Tories, after all. Blitz Security Alarms, meanwhile, have been upgraded to Blitz Security Group, and acquired a smart new design featuring the ever-trendy Cooper Black font. It's a very nice logo – even if it does conjure up images of a merciless fascist bombing campaign. • Spotted: King's Bench Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Blitz Security Group”, Southwark: shiny bomber

“Spy Alarms”, Lambeth: a creepy Masonic sign?

"Spy Alarms" burglar alarm, Lambeth • Once upon a time, a proud Lower Marsh retailer had this burglar alarm smartly fitted into a niche in their shop sign. Such was their attention to detail, that before the Spy label was stuck on, they even had the alarm's case painted dark blue to match the fascia. Then along came the sun, the wind and the rain – and off started to peel the Spy label, because it didn't stick to the paint properly. The result is a scarily blank crying / beaming Egyptian-style eye above a decaying paranoiac logo, peeking creepily out of its hole like a weird old sign for some defunct Masonic lodge. (Although Lower Marsh is so odd it wouldn't surprise me if there actually was a Masonic lodge there.) • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall
“Spy Alarms”, Lambeth: a creepy Masonic sign?

“Falcon Security”, Liverpool: tatty bird, nice niche

"Falcon Security" burglar alarm, Liverpool • I always enjoy burglar alarms' varied architectural settings: some languish in obscure corners amidst layers of grimy urban decay, whilst others are proudly placed and neatly painted around. Some are even fortunate enough to have their own dedicated niches, and it is to these that I turn this week. Having just finished a fortnight of random burglar alarm birds, my first niche is home to a rather tatty falcon (a species be covered more fully in a later series on hawkish alarm birds). This circular brickwork detail decorates a 19th-century warehouse near Tate Liverpool, now given over to that booming 21st-century descendant of warehousing, self-storage. • Spotted: Norfolk Street, Liverpool, Merseyside, L1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Liverpool Riverside
“Falcon Security”, Liverpool: tatty bird, nice niche

“Bluebird Securities”, Lewisham: a picturesque nest

"Bluebird Securities Crayford" burglar alarm, Lewisham • How picturesque: a fine yellow bluebird from Crayford, tangled in a nest of wires on the Ladywell Road. The old-style line drawing is far more characterful than yesterday's slick photographic bluebird, even though it could represent any blue or yellow bird really – a jay say, or a yellowhammer. Yellowhammer – now that would be a good name for an alarm. • Spotted: Ladywell Road, Lewisham, London, SE13, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Lewisham Deptford
“Bluebird Securities”, Lewisham: a picturesque nest

“Bluebird Security Systems”, Westminster: harmless

"Bluebird Security Systems" burglar alarm, City of Westminster • Following yesterday's kingfisher, another photorealistic bird. But you won't find a real-life bluebird living wild in the UK, as it's a North American native – an attractive, harmless and beloved creature, regarded sentimentally in the US much as the British view robin redbreast. As such, it's a peculiar choice for a security system; but the charming word Bluebird has been used to title everything from lethal speedboats to school buses to swanky cafes, so it seems fair enough to allow burglar alarms onto that list. • Spotted: Little Portland Street, City of Westminster, London, W1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster
“Bluebird Security Systems”, Westminster: harmless

“Kingfisher Fire and Security”, Southwark: realism

"Kingfisher Fire & Security" burglar alarm, Southwark • This is a more recent version of yesterday's burglar alarm. I don't feature two alarms by the same firm unless they're different enough to make an interesting comparison, and these two show the march of design and technology progress: from yesterday's monochrome silhouette on a rectangular box to today's photorealistic plumage on a jewel-shaped one. Despite a slight name change they've managed to keep continuity by retaining the same typography and ensuring the bird has the same pose – although now it's printed in full glowing colour, we can see that by choosing a back view, the designer has lost the kingfisher's most distinctive feature, its bright orange breast. • Spotted: Old Jamaica Road, Southwark, London, SE16, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Kingfisher Fire and Security”, Southwark: realism

“Kingfisher”, Winchester: flying blue flash

"Kingfisher Security (UK) Limited" burglar alarm, Winchester • Yet another seemingly-arbitrary bird, the kingfisher's main burglar alarm credentials are hunting skills, feisty territoriality and the appearance of a blue flash as it flies (suggestive perhaps of a strobe, though this is a mite fanciful). It doesn't have an impressive cry, so its "siren" properties are not a qualification. However its main attractions are surely its attractive looks and name: the implied monarchy theme is ever-popular with security firms. The most interesting non-security fact I could discover about about kingfishers is that they have a transparent third eyelid and extraordinarily complex eyes, which work in two modes: sharply monocular in air, and blurrily binocular in water – all the better for spearing fish. • Spotted: Town centre, Winchester, Hampshire, SO23, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Winchester
“Kingfisher”, Winchester: flying blue flash

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

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

“Owl Alarm Systems”, Southwark: it winks!

"Owl Alarm Systems Westerham" burglar alarm, Southwark • Having spent the last couple of weeks researching the tangled corporate histories of modernist-styled alarms, I've decided to take things easier for a while by writing about birds. Our feathered friends are very popular on alarms, with plenty of hawkish hunters and thieving magpies, but many less obvious suspects too, such as ducks, swans and doves. Owls cover all the alarm bird bases: they're wise, they catch prey at night, and they're cute too. One of my favourites is this charming 1970s-style drawing reminiscent of the early work of illustrator Jan Pienkowski (famous for his Meg, Mog and Og kids' books). Brilliantly, the owl has got a little light in each of its eyes: if you look closely, you can see that the left one is lit up red, while the right one is off. It's winking at us! • Spotted: Sawyer Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Owl Alarm Systems”, Southwark: it winks!

“Yale”, Cambridge: an Ivy League pairing

"Yale" burglar alarm, Cambridge • This Ivy League pairing of a Yale in Cambridge is the last "Modernist" alarm for now. I'd intended to write up this theme with brief musings on stylish shapes and clean design, and instead got drawn into researching the fates of a tangled web of venerable old firms which became the global trading chips of late 20th-century multinationals. And it's not just the traditional UK brands that have suffered this fate: Yale is the US equivalent of Chubb, a storied name dating back over 150 years that's now in the hands of an overseas corporation. The company was started in around 1840 in Newport, New York, by Linus Yale Senior, an innovative locksmith of Welsh extraction. The family firm's future was assured by his brilliant son Linus Junior, who invented both the standard combination lock, and – inspired by a 4,000-year-old Egyptian design – the Yale cylinder lock, used to this day. I can't find much hard fact on the internet, but based on various Wikipedia citations and Yale's own multifarious sites, the timeline is briefly thus. Yale soon became Yale & Towne – Henry R Towne being a business partner – and expanded worldwide. Yale UK was founded in 1929 in Willenhall in the West Midlands, and in 1987 their US owner First City Industries Inc sold them off for $400m to Valor PLC, a long-established gas fire manufacturer from Birmingham (the UK Brum, despite the US spelling of Valor), becoming Yale & Valor. After various other corporate machinations, they were bought in 1991 by Williams Holdings, a 1980s conglomerate (a lumpy word for a lumpy business model) formed to snaffle up underperforming businesses; in 1997 they also snaffled up Chubb, so for a brief period the two historic names were conglomerate bedfellows. In 2000 Williams, now a trendy PLC, sold the Yale Lock Company to Finno-Swedish security giant Assa Abloy. Confusingly, Chubb's locks division also ended up at Assa Abloy, where they're now sold under the Union brand (another historic locksmith that got swallowed up); while Chubb's alarms division ended up at US behemoth United Technologies Corporation, where it's used as the umbrella brand for all the other security firms UTC has acquired. Assa Abloy still use the Yale brand, and – to return to my original idea of writing sweet nothings about design and styling – have created a rather beautiful identity. This shiny round yellow siren with its cleverly incorporated blue strobe is the best new design I've seen for years, its sophisticated curves suggesting a Modernist sculpture (Brancusi, perhaps). It's a true successor to the Modern Alarms "jelly mould" which kicked off this Modernist category, and a vast improvement on the fussy faceted gem-shapes of the last decade. There's also a wedge-shaped version of this Yale, which functions as a dummy box; it's OK, but – like a boring chunk of Cheddar to the siren's gleaming golden Gouda – far less attractive. Cheddar's actually tastier than Gouda, but we'll let that pass. • Spotted: Regent Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB2, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of South Cambridgeshire
“Yale”, Cambridge: an Ivy League pairing

“Secom”, Southwark: not impersonal but inscrutable

"Secom" burglar alarm, Southwark • I've never been very interested in these polite Secom alarms – both the graphics and the name are so impersonal, like something from a Swiss clinic. Even their unique proprietary sounder, a flattish sort-of-triangle reminiscent of a clunky British electrical plug, is fundamentally boring. Having always assumed that these were the signifiers of a dull European multinational, I was surprised to discover a far more exotic provenance: for Secom are Japan's biggest, and oldest (according to them) private security firm. So, inscrutable rather than impersonal – my impressions were at least semi-correct. Founded in 1962 by Makoto Iida and Juichi Toda, Secom claim to have pioneered the "man-machine philosophy" – not, sadly, an army of tiny robots, but a combination of "highly trained personnel and high technology security equipments" (sic). They expanded in a similar manner to the classic British alarm outfits of the 60s – except, rather than being eventually absorbed by an external multinational, they did the absorption themselves, listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 1978. In 1991 they acquired the large UK firm Caroll Security Group, itself a successor to the family-owned Lodge Lock and Safe Company, founded in 1918 (I've never spotted a Lodge alarm, though Caroll's unusual round-topped boxes are still around). There are now Secom operations in 12 countries, including the USA, Australia and much of Indo-China, and I bet they use the same boring identity in every single place. Secom's Japanese website certainly uses the same colours and logo, alongside a version in Japanese script and a badly-designed tangle of cute cartoons. It's so impenetrable that I haven't been able to find any images of native Japanese Secom boxes, but I can report that they do to offer Secom food, which looks pretty revolting. • Spotted: Farnham Place, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark
“Secom”, Southwark: not impersonal but inscrutable

“ADT”, Derby: hexagons and tax barons

"ADT" burglar alarm, Derby • I've just emerged from a bout of research on my selection of "Modernist" alarm boxes – Modern, ADT, Thorn, Chubb, Capstan, Lander, Shorrock, Yale – and my head is spinning. I'd chosen them purely on design grounds, but with the exception of Capstan, they form a mind-boggling web of company takeovers, at least proving my theory that these stylish designs were created for the big boys. Security is a serious business, and this is globalism in action: the major firms are like a bunch of ever-larger Pac-Men chomping each other up from the 1900s to the present day, merging, PLC-ing and reverse-takeovering along the way, and led by figures including an emigrée philanthropist, a millionaire professor, a tax-dodging Baron, and a Croesus-salaried CEO currently in jail. Grandaddy of them all is ADT, an American firm formed in 1874, when a bunch of telegraph delivery firms incorporated as the American District Telegraph Company. By the 1960s they were a huge public concern, already operating in Britain, and in 1984 they were taken over by the Hawley Group, an acquisition vehicle run by business mogul Michael Ashcroft – aka controversial Baron Ashcroft of Belize, who was treasurer of the Conservative party while being non-domiciled in Britain and paying no UK tax. He renamed the company ADT Security Systems, registered it in tax haven Bermuda, and in 1997 sold it on to globalcorp Tyco (who make undersea cables and the like), via a reverse-takeover which gave Tyco Bermudan tax status too. At this point Tyco absorbed Modern Alarms and Thorn, and the all-conquering ADT we see here was born. Ashcroft bowed out, and in stepped CEO Leonard Kozlowski, who after trousering $81m in dodgy bonuses – some of which he allegedly spent on $6,000 shower curtains and an ice-sculpture of Michelangelo's David pissing vodka – ended up in jail from 2005 till 2022. I'm sure that nowadays everyone at Tyco and ADT is lovely and kind, and doesn't evade tax or have weeing ice-sculptures. But that's not what I'm really interested in: before I started learning all this, all I cared about was the yellow hexagonal box. So, to get back to the important stuff, it was designed by Colin Marsh for Modern Alarms to replace the round Eurobell featured yesterday, and taken on by ADT when they bought up Modern. ADT have used this so-called "nut" ever since, and they now have branches in over 50 countries, millions of customers, revenues in the billions, and – apparently – a 45 year contract to maintain the security of the British and American governments (expires 2034, so ex-CEO Len will be out of chokey by then). I don't know who Colin Marsh is, but he's obviously a talented designer: it would be nice to think he was getting a royalty for each of his ubiquitous yellow boxes. But given the lack of justice in the world – even the burglar alarm world – he probably isn't. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South
“ADT”, Derby: hexagons and tax barons

“Bell”, Borehamwood: not the Tory spin-doctor

"Bell" burglar alarm, Borehamwood • I'm not saying the town where I found this is boring, but there's a reason they call it Borehamwood. It's also a true blue Tory stronghold, which seems to be de rigeur for areas boasting these smart blue-and-silver Bell alarms. For that reason they always make me think of famous Tory spin-doctor Tim Bell, now Baron Bell of Belgravia (really), a founding member of the Conservatives' 1979 election-winning ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, and the man credited with creating Margaret Thatcher's deep-voiced, iron-haired, pussy-bowed image. But even though he once led a company called Chime Communications, Lord Bell doesn't really have a connection with Bell alarms – apart from the fact that you will find them both in Belgravia, which is good enough for me. • Spotted: Shenley Road, Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, WD6, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Hertsmere
“Bell”, Borehamwood: not the Tory spin-doctor

“Smart Alarms”, Sheffield: cute little critter

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

“Bell Intruder Alarms”, Aylesbury: Quasimodo

"Bell Intruder Alarms" burglar alarm, Aylesbury • This is presumably an updated version of yesterday's design, now divested of its awkward diagonal logo, though the clip-art church bell remains. In reality, alarm bells are the circular kind that get hammered at high speed, so it's not a strictly accurate portrayal; imagine how much more lively our streets would be if there really was a tiny church bell in every burglar alarm, being tolled by a mini-hunchback swinging on a rope. • Spotted: Cambridge Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Aylesbury
“Bell Intruder Alarms”, Aylesbury: Quasimodo

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

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

“Liberty”, Derby: “Noooooo!”

Liberty burglar alarm Derby 2010"Liberty Security" burglar alarm, Derby • To unpack the notions of "Liberty" and "Security" presented here would require more philosophical knowledge than I possess. I prefer to think of this Statue of Liberty not as the quintessential symbol of freedom presumably intended, but as the toppled post-armageddon wreck at the end of Planet of the Apes. Preferably with Homer (Simpson) prostrate before it, wailing "Noooooooooooo!" • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire, DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South Liberty burglar alarm Derby 2010
“Liberty”, Derby: “Noooooo!”

“Arrest”, Glasgow: policing by stealth

Arrest burglar alarm Glasgow 2010"Arrest Security Systems" burglar alarm, Glasgow • After days of dull detective work, once Sherlock was brought in an arrest was smartly made. But whereas burglar alarm firms make free with detection themes, they can't overtly reference the police, so they do it by stealth, employing blue-and-white colour schemes, and names such as this. I once spotted a "Cop" alarm too, somewhere down the immense length of South London's Old Kent Road (aka Murder Mile, so the Cop is well positioned), but I haven't managed to re-find it and photograph it yet. • Spotted: Merkland Street, Partick, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G11, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow North Arrest burglar alarm Glasgow 2010
“Arrest”, Glasgow: policing by stealth

“Videotech”, Islington: detection on drugs

Videotech burglar alarm Islington 2010"Videotech Security" burglar alarm, Islington • I know Sherlock Holmes was into drugs, but this is ridiculous. He's grown to immense proportions and is squinting at a rubbery gingerbread-style house through a magnifying glass, as if inspecting the chimney for crumbs. It's more like a suburb of the nightmare world inhabited by the sobbing, half-human house on the scary TR Security alarm than the glossy fusion of Video and Tech promised by the firm's title. But at least it's quite amusing, unlike most other detection-themed alarms – as has been demonstrated over last few days. • Spotted: York Way, Islington, London, N1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Islington South and Finsbury Videotech burglar alarm Islington 2010
“Videotech”, Islington: detection on drugs

“Detection Protection”, Lambeth: dated doggerel

Detection Protection burglar alarm Lambeth 2009"Detection Protection" burglar alarm, Lambeth • What can I say? Like all the other detection themed alarms, dull, dull dull – and ancient, and faded, and cheaply done – exactly the sort of thing you'd expect to find in a road called Lower Marsh (believe it or not, there's an Upper Marsh, too). But at least it rhymes! • Spotted: Lower Marsh, Lambeth, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Vauxhall Detection Protection burglar alarm Lambeth 2009
“Detection Protection”, Lambeth: dated doggerel

“TR Security”, Tower Hamlets: Grimm psychodrama

TR Security burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets, 2010"TR Security Alarms" burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets • This isn't a cartoon, it's a psychodrama. It's so troubling it reminds me of a Grimm's fairy tale, or one of those scary 1960s eastern european animations so brilliantly pastiched in The Simpsons as jerky cut-price replacements for Itchy and Scratchy. Let me describe the scene. The sun is high; the shadows small. A stocky, bizarrely-dressed man with the bulbous nose of a heavy drinker sprints across a featureless wasteland. In his white-gloved, malformed hands he cradles an intricate jewelled crown, the sort normally kept in a monarch's treasury. Peering over his shoulder, masked eyes glinting, he grins triumphantly back at the victim of his crown theft: a neat suburban house. A house that is half human. A house that is sobbing. Its sides heave with emotion, its door gapes in horror, its upstairs windows have become scrunched-up eyes squeezing out huge tears. By its side sits a writhing tangle of shadows, so dark it's impossible to work out what lies within. Maybe it's the house's existential despair; maybe it's the burglar's black soul; maybe it's just a bad drawing of a bush. But the moral is clear: don't store a crown in a suburban house, and if you must, then don't leave the front door open when there's a weird-looking bloke hanging round. • Spotted: Commercial Street, Tower Hamlets, London, E1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Bethnal Green and Bow TR Security burglar alarm, Tower Hamlets, 2010
“TR Security”, Tower Hamlets: Grimm psychodrama

“Tops”, Aylesbury: burglar or banker?

Tops Security Solutions burglar alarm, Aylesbury, 2010"Tops Security Solutions" burglar alarm, Aylesbury • Peer closely at this and you'll see a frowning, potato-faced fellow in an eye mask and stripey t-shirt positively pelting along beneath the logo. His defining features are a swag bag as big as he is, and a towering top hat. While it may be unusual to turn to burglar alarms for searing indictments of modern capitalism, it's hard not to see this badly-drawn chancer as a booty-laden banker or toffish politician, fleeing with the hard-earned savings of ordinary folk – a kind of reverse Robin Hood. Adding a further heady whiff of class war to this box are the police-blue colourway, the Tory constituency, and the bits of rubbish stuffed behind it. As for why the cartoon is buried under the logo, my theory is that a relative of Tops' boss did the useless cartoon, and the graphic designer hated it so much they tried to hide it. • Spotted: Kingsbury, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Aylesbury Tops Security Solutions burglar alarm, Aylesbury, 2010
“Tops”, Aylesbury: burglar or banker?

“ES Security”, Southwark: don’t mix crime with mime

ES Security burglar alarm, Southwark, 2010"ES Security" burglar alarm, Southwark • Another window-clutching mime artiste (see also Securitech, Exeter), wearing a strange beret-like hat possibly inspired by annoying Gallic "clown" Marcel Marceau. Unhappily for the lithe snooper, there is a highly advanced second burglar alarm hidden inside the window (I'm assuming this is an interior view), whose powerful sound waves have brutally severed his right foot. That'll teach him to mix crime with mime. This is my last "shadowy intruder" for now, and I must admit I'm rather bored with their anonymous silhouettes – I prefer the bizarre cartoon felons I think of as "pantomime burglars", of which some prime specimens will follow shortly. • Spotted: Southwark Street, Southwark, London, SE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Liberal Democrat constituency of Bermondsey and Old Southwark ES Security burglar alarm, Southwark, 2010
“ES Security”, Southwark: don’t mix crime with mime

“IAS”, Sheffield: career criminal or Mad Man?

IAS burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010"IAS" burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010 • Most shadowy intruders seem to be based on the same stumbling silhouette, copied with varying degrees of simplification and skill. This is a particularly extravagant one – note the stack heels, the bulky and flowing jacket, the strangely bouffant hair. He's more like an extra from Mad Men or a drunken salesman than a sneak thief – unless career criminals actually do wear formal attire. The name "IAS" is equally shadowy: an unexplained acronym, beloved of so many burglar alarm firms. Intruder Alert Systems is my guess... (googles)... blimey, it could be, but there are loads of organisations called IAS. International Accounting Standards, that must be it – it's a pretty rumpled suit. • Spotted: Fargate, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central IAS burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010
“IAS”, Sheffield: career criminal or Mad Man?

“Banham”, Kensington: the ponciest burglar of all

Banham burglar alarm, Kensington, 2010“Banham” burglar alarm, Kensington and Chelsea, 2010 • Unlike the shadowy intruder device, which is simply a generic silhouetted figure, pantomime burglars come in many forms. This refugee from Dexy’s Midnight Runners, on the venerable Banham shield, is by far the most poncey. Who does he think he is, posing in his fancy frame – a gondolier, a mime artiste, a strolling player, a jolly onion seller? He’s even dressed in golden cloth, playing on the beribboned motto “Another Burglar Foiled”. Banham knows it has a reputation as the posho’s burglar alarm, ubiquitous in London’s more gilded postcodes, but this is pushing it. He’s a burglar, goddamit, not a member of the Royal Academy. Interestingly (to some), this New Romantic-looking livery is a fairly recent Banham strategy; previously their alarms were of the minimalist typographic persuasion. From functionalism to frippery: it must be the way society’s going • Spotted: Cheval Place, Kensington and Chelsea, London, SW7, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Kensington Banham burglar alarm, Kensington, 2010
“Banham”, Kensington: the ponciest burglar of all

Nameless alarm, Hanley: a classic pantomime burglar

Nameless burglar alarm, Hanley, 2010Nameless burglar alarm, Stoke-on-Trent, 2010 • Felons on burglar alarms seem to come in two types only: the shadowy intruder, and the pantomime burglar. This is a prime example of the latter: stripey t-shirt, black eye mask (here resembling antique goggles), and a big lumpy bag marked swag. A striking work outfit, certainly, but a bit of a giveaway. For good measure, this chap’s wearing some manner of proletarian cap – or maybe it’s a knotted hanky – and has got mightily entangled in a “no entry” sign. No wonder he looks so unhappy. Unlike the artist, who considered this design so iconic that the company name has been omitted. Unless that’s the burglar’s phone number it’s advertising. • Spotted: Hanley town centre, Stoke-On-Trent, Staffordshire, ST1, England • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Stoke-on-Trent Central Nameless burglar alarm, Hanley, 2010
Nameless alarm, Hanley: a classic pantomime burglar

“Pointer”, Glasgow: a discreet “vandal” sticker

"Pointer" burglar alarm with "Vandal" sticker, Glasgow, 2010"Pointer" burglar alarm with "vandal" sticker, Glasgow, 2010 • A very discreet vandal indeed must have placed this tiny sticker. It's on an updated version of the ancient Pointer alarm from Hull I posted a while back. This design tames the bonkers dog logo within a circle, and replaces the stonking stencil font with tasteful Officina, the Helvetica of the 1990s, designed by type god Erik Spiekermann. The alarm's designer appears to be channelling a 1990s CD sleeve (presumably current at the time), and probably had to fight for that lower case "p" – it's an exciting life in the world of graphics. I still prefer the original naive design, though. • Spotted: Merchant City area, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, G1, Scotland, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Glasgow Central "Pointer" burglar alarm with "Vandal" sticker, Glasgow, 2010
“Pointer”, Glasgow: a discreet “vandal” sticker

“Bulldog Alarms”, Sheffield: naive triangular teeth

"Bulldog Alarms" burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010"Bulldog Alarms" burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010 • I found this above a boarded-up kebab shop on Wicker, a dreary strip of fast food joints surreally terminated by an immense Piranesian viaduct. The road is situated by a bend in the River Don, and its unusual name may derive from wick, meaning angle. This nicely echoes the angular Bulldog Alarms logo, a naive yet artful monogram whose jagged triangles form a rhythmic pattern which conjures up both houndstooth check and early 20th century geometric abstract art (both possibly unintentionally). It has exactly the same casing as the preceding entry, Kudos, and the outdated phone code and accretion of guano suggest it is of the same pre-1995 vintage. In fact, it could be even older: judging by the yellow-and-black Street Sounds records-style colourway and constructivist bent, its logo was designed in the mid to late 1980s. • Spotted: Wicker, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S3, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Sheffield Central "Bulldog Alarms" burglar alarm, Sheffield, 2010
“Bulldog Alarms”, Sheffield: naive triangular teeth

“Scaff Guard”, Kensington: a very gory bulldog

Scaff Guard Ltd burglar alarm"Scaff Guard Ltd" burglar alarm, City of Westminster, 2010 • The word slavering could have been invented for this comically rabid beast, my final Tory dog for now. Appropriately for such a hammy performer, I found him by the Royal Albert Hall on Kensington Gore (which is also the name of a famous make of stage blood, as seen in Hammer Horror films). He wasn't even protecting a house – just some scaffolding. And there wasn't a real guard dog in sight. • Spotted: Kensington Gore, City of Westminster, London SW7, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Scaff Guard Ltd burglar alarm
“Scaff Guard”, Kensington: a very gory bulldog

“Securipol”, Westminster: dodgy duo behind MI5

Securipol Systems burglar alarm"Securipol Systems" burglar alarm, City of Westminster, 2010 • I have a soft spot for silhouettes on burglar alarms, with their suggestions of shadowy activity. Despite having so little detail, they are often extremely poorly drawn, and this is no exception: note the Bunny-girl ears on the presumed Alsatian, and the awkward pose of the security guard, with his hint of jackboot on one side, and what appears to be an amputated stump or penile malformation the other. More successful is the equally bodged-up name: Securipol. It's a naive, unsubtle construction, but one with etymological power, because what instantly springs to mind? Security. Police. Loaded words with classical roots: Latin "securus" (without care) and Greek "polis" (city). It's rendered in navy and white, which also have police connotations (a trend I've noticed on other burglar alarms too), implying that somehow this potato-headed freak and his rabbit-eared mutt are state-sanctioned protectors of the national security. Appropriate then that I found this alarm in Westminster, the heart of British government, on a building situated right behind the HQ of MI5,  the UK's internal security service. Make of that what you will. • Spotted: Horseferry Road, City of Westminster, London SW1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Conservative constituency of Cities of London and Westminster Securipol Systems burglar alarm
“Securipol”, Westminster: dodgy duo behind MI5

“Bulldog”, Derby: logo as abstract leg wound?

"Bulldog" burglar alarm, Derby, 2010 • Somehow, you feel the designer was not entirely in tune with the image that the word "Bulldog" normally conveys. With its popular "initial as logo" device and cheesy sci-fi-style fonts, this alarm's stickered livery resembles the cuff of a jaunty sports sock rather than a fierce beast. Maybe the way the B is formed by an absence of ink represents the chunk of flesh the bulldog will remove from an unwise intruder's leg, and the buzzing red-and-white stripes the raw blood and bone that will result. But I think not. It's on nice bricks, though: and I can recommend Derby as a repository of many fine historical buildings. • Spotted: Town centre, Derby, Derbyshire DE1, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of Derby South
“Bulldog”, Derby: logo as abstract leg wound?

“Watchdog”, Newham: the Cyclops of Olympic Park

"Watchdog" burglar alarm, Newham, 2010 • As if the gazillions of CCTV cameras watching us weren't enough, now we've got burglar alarms with eyes too. And despite being on public land, I was heavily hassled by a bunch of G4 "security operatives" simply for snapping the one here. That's because it's in an area where most alarms – along with the rotting industrial buildings they were attached to – have been swept away to make way for London's glossy new Olympic Park. I was once terrorized by a monstrous, crazed watchdog while exploring the Olympics area pre-demolition, and to me, this device resembles a blue-nosed dog with one mean, narrowed eye: the face of a wary Staffie with its ears flattened back, ready for combat. If the designer intended this, by the placing of the logo in relation to the snubby bulb below, then it's deceptively clever; it makes me think of the plastic debris masks by African artist Romuald Hazoumé. It's an all-seeing cyclops of the Olympics, a one-eyed Cerberus of the Bow Back Rivers. Or maybe that's just my bad memories kicking in. • Spotted: Marshgate Lane, Newham, London E15, England, 2010 • Politics: In the Labour constituency of West Ham
“Watchdog”, Newham: the Cyclops of Olympic Park