The Paternoster Lift - Arts Tower

The lift is back in operation following essential maintenance works.

Paternoster list not working with red tape across the middle saying do not use

15 September 2022

The lift repairs have been completed ahead of schedule.  The lift is in operation again.  

7 September 2022

We hope to have the Paternoster operational during the week commencing Monday 19 September.  The timescale has slipped by one week since our last update on 26 August but remains much sooner than our initial 8 to 12 week plan.

Whilst working with the specialist engineering company we have developed remedial works which will improve the operational availability of the paternoster, whilst utilising standard widely available parts. 

We do apologise for the slight delay since our last update but the benefit is we now have a more long term solution.

Timeframe - updated 7 September

Whilst the anticipated schedule for this work was 8 to 12 weeks we are pleased to announce that we hope to have the lift back in operation week commencing Monday 19 September. 

If there are any changes to the new schedule we will provide an update on this page.

For any queries please contact EFM's Relationships Manager Rachel Parnham

26 August 2022

The manufactured part required for the lift is ready ahead of the expected schedule.  Contractors will be on site from Tuesday 30 August to remove the paternoster drive transfer gear and shaft from the motor room for replacement of the defective bearing.  Once the new bearing is in place, the contractors will reinstall the transfer gear and shaft. A small amount of noise may be heard from the work which will be happening in the lift plant room. Full safety checks can then commence prior to the lift being reopened. 

12 August 2022

Following an inspection of the lift by our Engineering and Maintenance team, a bespoke plain bearing, also known as a bushing, has been identified as worn and past it's serviceable limits. 

For the safety of everyone using the lifts we have had to take it out of service whilst we commission the part to be manufactured.  We will then need to remove a large part of the lift's gearing from the top of the lift's mechanism and it will be taken away to have the new part fitted.  The final stage will be reinstalling the gear at the top of the lift, at the top of the Arts Tower before running full safety checks prior to being reopened.

The History of the Paternoster

Built over 45 years ago by the Schindler Lift company, the paternoster has 38 two-person cars and travels the full 22 stories of the building. A journey between two floors takes just 13 seconds.

It allows 76 people to be moved up and down the Arts Tower at any one time, which is more than a double decker bus.  It is the tallest operational lift of its kind in Europe and one of only two still working in the UK.

2009 Renovation

When the University’s Arts Tower was refurbished in 2009, the paternoster was completely rewired with new controls and additional lighting. The gearbox and sprockets were recut, wooden guides were replaced where necessary and additional safety features were introduced.

Keith Lilley, Director of Estates and Facilities Management and IT at the University of Sheffield, said: “We're extremely proud that our paternoster - which is the tallest still in operation in Europe - is still going strong. Thousands of students will have fond memories of hopping on and off the paternoster attending classes in our iconic Arts Tower - the tallest academic building in the UK .

"There have been some significant upgrades to the paternoster over the years, including the addition of indicator lights for safe boarding and exiting carriages. We're sure it will still be transporting students for many years to come."

What is a paternoster lift? 

The paternoster lift was invented in the 1860s by Peter Ellis, an architect from Liverpool.

It uses open compartments on a continuously moving loop, one side going up, the other down.

The name comes from system's resemblance to rosary prayer beads and is Latin for ''Our Father', which begins the Lord's Prayer.

A video showing the Paternoster lift in motion in the Arts Tower