Paternoster Lift – Sheffield, England - Atlas Obscura

Paternoster Lift

Arts Tower

One of the last doorless, continuously moving elevators still in use in the U.K.  


Inside the landmark Arts Tower in Sheffield, one of the country’s best-known and tallest university buildings, you’ll find another icon of design that’s quickly becoming obsolete: one of the last remaining paternoster lifts in the U.K.

Though seemingly terrifying, doorless elevators that never stop were popular throughout Europe during the early and mid-20th century. The open-cabin lifts run slowly but continuously on a loop without ever stopping, and passengers hop on and off when they reach their destination floor. 

Alas, the once-trendy lifts saw a steep fall from grace when safety concerns began to emerge after a series of accidents. In the 1970s construction was ceased, and many of the models already installed were replaced with newer elevators. Today, just a few paternosters remain as relics of midcentury engineering.

The largest paternoster lift still in use in the U.K. can be found in the Arts Tower, part of the University of Sheffield. Built in the 1960s, the 38-carriage paternoster system has served the building well for over six decades and is still going strong.

Know Before You Go

It is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Friday. You can get there by yellow or blue trams from the town centre. Tickets can be bought on board and you get off at the University stop. There are good views from the top, as the building is the second-highest in Sheffield.

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