If you speak British English, then you will refer to it as a ‘lift’. If you’re American, or were taught to speak English in the American way, then you’ll call it an ‘elevator’. But despite this difference, I’ll bet that we all have the same idea of exactly what a lift / elevator is.

Go to the doors, press the button, the lift / elevator arrives, get in, the doors close, press the button for the floor you want… it all seems a little laborious once you’ve seen a paternoster lift in action. But the chances are good that you haven’t.

These lifts were invented in England in 1868 and patented a few years later. They were a super-efficient way of moving people quickly in multi-storeyed buildings without using the stairs. They were installed in buildings throughout the world – although they were most popular in Europe.

Then, in the mid nineteen seventies production stopped and was never resumed and very few examples still exist although you can still ride a paternoster lift at the Arts Tower in Sheffield, Yorkshire.

Why did production cease? Well, as the world became more obsessed with public safety the paternosters were deemed unsafe. This is because they had no doors and the cars themselves didn’t stop at each floor – they just kept going. Passengers had to leap on as they went by.

This is true. Look:

The paternoster at the Arts Tower is the largest in the world. It was opened in 1966 – complete with paternoster. And the mid-century lift is still working and still a more efficient way of travelling between the floors of the building.


The Arts Tower

12 Bolsover St,
Sheffield S3 7NA,




JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.

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