An art director who became obsessed with burglar alarm boxes on buildings has become an internet sensation because of her blog about the objects.
Victoria MacDonald has compiled a database of thousands of examples of the ‘bell boxes’ with a critique of each design.
The fascination has meant that the blog is divided into dozens of specific sections in terms of geography, design and even the political colour of the constituency the box is seen in.
Some other categories about the designs are titled ‘technology’, ‘science’, ‘houses’, ‘union Jacks’, ‘heraldic’, ‘royalty’ and ‘crazy creatures’.
The blog ‘Burglar Alarm Britain’ has become a surprise hit with thousands of followers across the country.
Fellow fans send in their own pictures for Victoria to critique and give her increasingly valuable opinions on.
The blog includes essays and other information about the bizarre boxes that we all see but rarely notice.
‘Bell boxes’ – as they are correctly called – are not merely a deterrent or advertisement.
They have evolved from a time when householders had to pay for fire cover, and they would have a bell box on their home so firemen knew the home-owners had paid their subs.
When burglar alarms started to be introduced the tradition of the boxes continued.
One of Victoria’s favourites is the new boxes of Wessex Fire & Security, a Dorset-based firm that works across the south.
The company logo has recently been redesigned and now features the Wessex owl.
Chris Stott, Wessex Fire & Security’s Managing Director, said: “The blog is very popular within the industry and I know a lot of companies look at it regularly. It’s not just a collection of pictures of bell boxes, but it contains proper critiques of the designs and they are divided into many categories. I was delighted that Victoria liked our new design, which has been received very well.
“The boxes are a legacy from the 60s when the Auto-Call Company acquired Automatic Fire Alarms and began offering a joint fire and security service. Before then, bell boxes were synonymous with the fire alarm industry. As a result, their competitors also incorporated burglar alarm boxes, which displayed their logos to show that householders and businesses paid for security from a firm approved by the Association of Burglary Insurance Surveyors.”
Victoria, from London, said: “While pursuing a seemingly endless project photographing shop-fronts, I started to become equally fascinated by the naively-designed burglar alarms that adorned them. This sad typographical obsession still has me in its grip over ten years later.
After a recent trip to Wiltshire, I returned with one photo of a standing stone, and 76 photos of burglar alarms. The mega-security firms apart, it’s a local art, and it’s fun noting how styles vary by area. Vintage sounders often have naïve logos, perhaps designed by a jobbing printer or the proprietor’s child. Rural liveries tend towards the whimsical, with jaunty creatures and decorative fonts. Well-heeled towns offer pompous serif concepts such as Decorum and Quality, while inner-city walls blare bold tabloid exhortations to STAND FAST and AMBUSH!
Wessex Fire & Security’s old design was one of my favourites and although they’ve recently updated their identity I’m delighted they’ve kept the wise old owl. It is far more charming than the fierce beasts popular in more urban areas, and an appealing contrast to the dull corporate-type bell box designs that seem to be proliferating.
I used to take all the pictures of the burglar alarm boxes myself, but the blog has got so popular that people have started submitting them. It really has developed into something that I never could have imagined.”
Follow Victoria’s blog at http://burglaralarmbritain.me