Although it may appear as if private security companies are a modern phenomenon, the concept can actually be traced, in some form or other, all the way back to ancient times. Of course, the security companies of yesteryear look nothing like the thriving industry we have today, which offers a range of services and technology to help protect homes, business, and individuals.
Nevertheless, we thought it would be rather interesting to take a look back across history at the evolution of security companies, from Ancient Egypt up to our very own Churchill Support Services, to see where the industry started and how it’s changed over time. With that being said, let’s jump right into our historical timeline.
Cast your mind back to the time of Ancient Egypt. 1300 BC to be precise. Ramses II is on the thrown and he’s looking to protect his country, his palace and his family. His security company of choice? The Medjai. Thought to be the first example of private security, the Medjai were paid to supplement the Egyptian army, which was otherwise made up of ordinary Egyptian men who were conscripted into the army and received no payment for their efforts. The Medjai were also paid to provide personal security to the Pharaoh and his family, often deployed to guard their vast royal complex and the surrounding town of Thebes. Depictions of these private security guards can be found referenced in wall paintings and carvings, so we can only assume that Ramses II was happy with his customer service!
As we move into Ancient Rome in our journey through the evolution of private security companies, we see increasing numbers of wealthy individuals hiring private security to protect their home, assets, and family. Those more privilege members of society could afford to hire gladiators to safeguard their property and some even hired criminal gangs for protection! If those affluent individuals didn’t want to spend money hiring a criminal security company, they would often use slaves called janitors to man access to their property. As for the Emperor himself, he founded the Praetorian guard as his personal bodyguards. Those history aficionados amongst us will recognise the Praetorian guard as leaders of the regular Roman Army legions, but before they gained significant power and influence in Ancient Rome, they were the security company of choice for Emperor August back in 2700 BC. They were required to swear an oath of loyalty to the Emperor and were dedicated to protecting him from any attempts on his life. As they evolved into an uncontrolled section of the military, however, they ended up taking out a fair few Emperors instead!
As we move away from the comparatively civil Ancient Rome into the dark ages, we descend into security chaos. With countless wars and invasions across western Europe, those prosperous members of society sought to protect themselves and their property with the medieval equivalent of a security company- the mercenaries. While these ‘soldiers for hire’ were normally paid to wage war, they eventually began developing free companies or “free lances”, groups of mercenaries with a formalized structure and operational agreements between its members. Villages and towns often contracted these companies to provide security, hoping this would protect their communities from invasions and pillages. Indeed, writer and scholar Thomas More was very much in favour of leaving security to a professional company rather than civilians, as it allowed the common folk to pursue more wholesome activities such as art and music. The only problem with these Medieval security companies? Mercenaries had a fatal deficiency in loyalty and would often change allegiance to the highest bidder. Some would even end up robbing the town themselves! A far cry from the regulated and accountable private security of today. Despite the vast disparities between modern security companies and the hired swords of Yore, the principal of private security is the same; hiring professionals so you can get on with other stuff.
As Britain began to enter the industrial age, people flocked from the countryside to the cities to find work in factories. With the rising crime levels that accompanied hazardous working conditions, low pay, terrible living conditions and a distinct lack of organised policing, private security companies boomed during the industrial revolution. Factory owners would often employ private security to quash strikes or violence from overworked and underpaid workers. As railways grew busier, and the crowds unrulier, the train companies began to hire private security officers to control the crowds and make sure the trains could enter and leave the stations with minimal interruption. These services proved to be incredibly effective and the publics started to demand better law enforcement from the Government. In 1753, the Government began to fund the Bow Street Runners, an organised squadron dedicated to tracking down criminals and bringing them to justice. Although a vital first step to better public law enforcement, private security companies were still the more effective option for those who could afford it. It wasn’t until 1829, when Robert Peel lobbied the government for a dedicated full-time police force, that the London Metropolitan Police was founded, and the modern police force started to take shape.
We now move across the pond to the USA and the rapid expansion of the railroad. As the railroad stretched out westward, new towns began popping up across this new territory-often without proper law enforcement. The wild west certainly earned its name. The California gold rush brought with it criminals and opportunists, and it wasn’t uncommon for people, property and trains to be attacked by outlaws and criminal gangs. Although established towns and cities in the USA had some form of law enforcement, these uncharted territories caused jurisdiction issues, which meant bringing criminals to justice was no easy feat. There was an obvious need for private security and Allan Pinkerton capitalized on this, establishing the Pinkerton National Detective Agency in 1850, a private security company which supplied security guards to railroad companies, private businesses and even Abraham Lincoln during the Civil war. The Pinkerton National Detective Agency is thought to be the first official private security company to resemble today’s model, providing a blueprint for the development of the modern security company.
As we move into the 20th century, security companies as we know them today began popping up across Britain, offering gatehouse protection, manned access, and fire watch services. As we move into the 20th century, the industry really begins to benefit from advancements in technology, offering burglar alarms and CCTV as a supplement to traditional security guarding. Although early versions of the burglar alarm were around as early as 1853 in the USA, in 1907 the first burglar alarm company was founded in the UK, using telegraph wires, copper strips, telegraph relays and solenoid bells to provide a rudimentary alarm system for private homes and businesses. It’s worth noting here the influential role insurance companies played in the wide-spread use of burglar alarms, who championed this new technology as it was successful at reducing theft claims.
As for CCTV, early versions were first invented during WW2 by German engineer Walter Bruch to monitor V-2 rockets. Although CCTV technology was launched on a commercial basis in 1949, the technology didn’t become a mainstay of security until the late 60s/ early 70s, when public authorities and private property owners began to really use this technology to deter and catch criminals.
In comparison to public law enforcement, the private security industry remained rather unregulated for much of the 20th century. This, however, all changed with the turn of the millennium and the Private Security Industry Act 2001. This act enforced a system for the statutory regulation of private security companies and lead to the founding of the Security Industry Authority (SIA), the body responsible for regulating private security companies and ensuring they operate within the correct legal framework. If you are working in the private security sector, you’ll have no doubt heard of SIA and the SIA licence. Unlike the private security of the past, not just anyone can be a security guard these days. All guards working for a private security company must hold a SIA licence to carry out licensable activities, ensuring that all private security guards are professionally qualified and properly trained.
Founded in 1996, Churchill Security pairs a wealth of experience and industry insight, with forward-thinking strategy and the latest technology. Specializing in supplying Security Guards, CCTV Security, Event Security, Fire Watch, Key Holding & Alarm Response and Mobile Patrols to organisations across the UK, Churchill Support Services is one of the UK’s leading, cross-industry security companies. With our SIA accreditations, SafeContractor approval and ACS Pacesetters membership, you can be sure your organisation is protected by a thoroughly modern security company.
Churchill Support Services is a leading cross-industry security company supplying professional and comprehensive security solutions to organisations seeking expert Security Guards, CCTV, Event Security, Key Holding & Alarm Response, Mobile Patrols and Thermal Imaging & People Flow.
To find out more about how Churchill Support Services can protect your business, contact us today!