University of Sheffield's paternoster lift still going strong

The University of Sheffield’s paternoster lift is one of the last remaining in the UK.

The rare lift, which has no doors and moves continually without stopping at floor level, is one of only two left in the country after the University of Leicester announced that its paternoster is to close.

The University of Sheffield’s paternoster lift is based in The Arts Tower - the tallest academic building in the UK - and is the tallest operational lift of its kind in Europe.

Built over 40 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.

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.

"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.

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

Sheffield is the only university to feature in The Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2017 and was voted number one university in the UK for Student Satisfaction by Times Higher Education in 2014. In the last decade it has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in recognition of the outstanding contribution to the United Kingdom’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

Global research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls-Royce, Unilever, AstraZeneca, Glaxo SmithKline, Siemens and Airbus, as well as many UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.


For further information please contact:

Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 222 1046