The Paternoster Lift

One of very few remaining paternoster lifts that is still in operation in the UK

The continually moving paternoster lift carriages

The lift is located in our iconic Arts Tower building.

Whilst we can never guarantee the lift to be running, it generally operates Monday to Friday between 09:00 and 16:30 during term time.  Exceptions to this are when it is taken out of service for essential maintenance, regular inspections and cleaning.  

There is a also cafe in the basement of the Arts Tower.

Please do not ride ‘over the top’ or ‘go under’ on the Paternoster.  Whilst doing so is not a risk to life, it can cause mechanical failure.  Anyone travelling at the time of failure gets stuck, which can be for an extended period of time, and needs help evacuating.  A lift engineer has to be called out to attend.  

This is costly and impacts building users who can only use the alternative lifts whilst the Paternoster is out of service. Please alight between Lower Ground and Floor 18 to ensure the Paternoster can operate and be enjoyed by all.

Anyone who wants to use the Paternoster should read the safety sign clearly displayed on each floor before alighting.

A sign giving guidance for when people use the Paternoster lift

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