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History of the burglar and fire alarm industry:  Part 2.  England
November 10, 2020
History of the burglar and fire alarm industry: Part 2.  England
England:  A History of the UK intruder alarm industry 1852 – 2004 by Mike Cahalane
published at

    The early years 1852 - 1960 
     Dogs, geese, locks, barriers, watchmen and guards were some of the earliest forms of security employed by man and have been used since the very earliest of civilizations. Whilst locks, bars, grilles, safes, and strong rooms can provide physical protection, they did not detect attacks or summon a response. When combined together as a system these methods provided deterrence, alerts and response. 
       ​The first modern alarm system was invented in the early eighteenth century by an English promoter named Tildesley2. A set of chimes was mechanically linked to the door lock. The inventor's advertisement proclaimed: “The bells associated with it are constructed in such a manner that no sooner is the skeleton key of an intruder applied to the lock than the [bells] begin to chime a plaintive air that inspires such sentiment in the minds of the housebreaker that will doubtlessly prompt him to take precipitous flight.” The simplicity of the system demonstrates the fundamentals of this basic intruder alarm system, detection, processing and the signalling of an attack by potential intruders – and the system doesn’t need to eat or sleep. There is the further immeasurable benefit – the deterrent. Figure 1 illustrates how an effective security system relies on the integration of individual ‘system’ elements operating successfully together to provide detection, processing and response. The defeat of any of these disables the entire system - a disabled system ensures no deterrence and no response. The detection principle. 
     ​As society developed and became wealthier new technology was required that overcame the limitations of mechanical devices. The early measures to create alarms had their benefits, however none provided the level of security offered by the automatic burglar alarm system, powered by a stream of electrons that flowed as fast as light and carried intelligent messages, that could be processed and acted on according to required levels of response. Electricity allowed the development of telegraphy, which provided the platform for advances towards specially designed components that could be used in burglar alarm systems:

      “A burglar alarm, or intruder alarm as it is more properly called…. is not intended as a means of preventing a criminal from forcibly entering premises. It is designed to provide a warning at the earliest possible moment, of entry, or attempted entry, by a criminal into the protected premises” 
      Claims for the origin of the first electrical burglar alarm system are many but it is likely that the earliest was a design by Augustus Pope who filed a U.S. patent on the 27 October 18524 for an “improvement in electro-magnetic alarms”…that gave “an alarm in case of burglarious …attempts to enter” a building through a door or a window. A significant advance by Pope was his design for an electric bell that replaced earlier clockwork models incorporated in the earlier mechanical linkage systems. Whilst Pope may be credited with the first patent it relied on Sir Charles Wheatstone’s5 invention of the first electromagnetic relay, acting as a simple processor sitting between a detection device and the warning provided by the electric bell, see Figure1. 
​      Intruder alarm systems now include a range of complex electronic security devices designed to detect arson, burglary, improper access, and covert or overt surveillance. These systems can summon emergency response by signalling remote monitoring centres with a range of electronic messages utilising a variety of transmission systems. The development of the security systems industry in the UK can be traced back to the need to enhance the protection of business premises in the City of London where insurers were experiencing increasing losses through burglary. Virtually all the major insurers had head offices in the City of London and their losses from burglary of business premises they insured in the City were significant, growing, and increasingly difficult to underwrite.            
        ​The First World War had taught large numbers of men about the use of explosives. Unfortunately some applied these skills to burglary and safe blowing. 2 © Mike Cahalane Thomas Gunn Limited, a firm of electrical contractors founded 1907, is believed to be the oldest burglar alarm company in the UK. Their burglar alarms used telegraph wire, copper strips formed as contacts, telegraph relays and solenoid bells, assembled on site as a tailor made system designed for the specific risk and premises. Insurers promoted these systems for high value theft-attractive risks and they proved successful in reducing claims. 
      ​Thus, the insurance industry became a prime mover in the growth of the security systems industry.

      By 1921 the intruder alarm business of Thomas Gunn was so successful they decided to incorporate their business into a new company, the Rely-a-Bell Burglar and Fire Alarm Company Limited. The objects for which the company was established are described thus in the original Memorandum of Association:
      “(a) To execute with or without modification and carry into effect an agreement with Thomas Gunn Limited and Henry John Tibbles for the purchase of certain Patents for Burglar and Fire Alarms in the terms of the draft agreement a copy whereof has for the purpose of identification been initialed [sic] by Frank Victor Gunn a proposed director of the Company. 
       (b) To manufacture construct and fit Burglar and Fire Alarms. (c) To manufacture purchase sell and fit locks padlocks and other locking devices and to manufacture and sell electric radiators.”
     The business interests of Rely-a-Bell and insurers fitted closely those of the City of London police whose principle objectives were set out by Richard Mayne in 1829:
     "the primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime: the next that of detection and punishment of offenders if crime is committed. To these ends all the efforts of police must be directed. The protection of life and property, the preservation of public tranquillity, and the absence of crime, will alone prove whether those efforts have been successful and whether the objects for which the police were appointed have been attained."
     With these words Richard Mayne also set the measure upon which security systems should be judged. The key ‘detection principle’ sectors Represents those key sectors whose interests, whilst separately managed, have a common aim, the detection of burglary, the prevention of loss and the arrest and prosecution of burglars, all of which amplifies the underlying deterrent effect. The peace of mind gained by this virtuous detection principle has been an incalculable added value for homeowners and businesses. Naturally, the triumvirate of interests is interdependent; the security offered by intruder alarms the peace of mind and the deterrent effect and can only be sustained if all are effective in the services they provide.
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Kirschenbaum & Kirschenbaum PC
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