New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

The Friday Photo: Aston University Sky Lifts

Posted May 31st, 2014 by Birmingham Conservation Trust with 11 Comments

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I need to make a couple of apologies, the first because, due to overwhelming busy-ness, my Friday Photo has slipped over into Saturday. The second apology because I can find very little information to share with you on the subject of this week’s photo.
For as long as I remember, I have been drawn to these lifts. When I was a kid, I always thought them rather space-age! When a French pen-friend came over, they were one of the first things I showed her in our city (and we rode them too, which was rather entertaining as she was scared of heights!) I also remember seeing them in a TV series in the 80s/90s. Even now, though they have faded somewhat, I’m still impressed by them, I suppose the closest thing I have seen to them elsewhere is the Pompidou Centre in Paris. Do any of our Friday Photo audience know anything about them? When were they built? Do you love them or loathe them?

11 Responses to “The Friday Photo: Aston University Sky Lifts”

  1. M Robinson March 29, 2017

    Hi, I was at Aston University from 1982 to 86. The sky lifts were installed in 1985, as part of the new entrance to the main building. At the same time the footway to the students union building was covered over and the whole area around vista green campus was landscaped and pedestrianised. This was done as part of the new Science park development, I also remember the curious Aston university sculpture being erected on the corner facing the expressway, On the subject of the Paternosters; these had been removed from the main building in 1982, however there was still one in operation in the south wing of the building, this wing being part of the old Birmingham technical college, I remember that the floors of the 2 buildings were joined but not quite aligned with short flights of steps between them, I rode on the paternoster on many occasions,in fact I used to go out of my way to use it. I remember we used to go up and over the pit and the loft on purpose, very scary the first time,as I thought the cabins might collapse. There was a sign after the last floor above your head telling you, you were ‘ entering the pit’ !!

    Reply

    • Vicki Cox March 29, 2017

      Thanks for sharing your memories. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of a paternoster but have never had the pleasure of riding one. I wonder if anyone has any photos of the old one at Aston.

      Reply

  2. Ian Wilson June 17, 2014

    I attended Aston Uni from Sep 1986 and they were in place then.

    So must have been installed between 82 – 86.

    Reply

    • Clare Overton Lewis June 17, 2014

      We’re narrowing it down, thank you. Did you like the lifts, or were they purely functional to you?

      Reply

      • Ian Wilson June 17, 2014

        Yes, we always enjoyed using them, felt very space-age.

        I went back to the Campus a couple of months ago, and couldn’t resist another ride in the lifts. Unfortunately, the glass is frosted over now, so you can’t look out at the view.

        Reply

    • Paul November 27, 2015

      I was at Aston in 1985 and these lifts were already installed. I think they were new that year and they were very enjoyable to ride in!

      Reply

  3. James Robertson June 17, 2014

    When I was a student there we took over the lifts for Red Nose day one year: in one we had a uniformed butler pressing the buttons (and demanding donations to charity) and in the other a waiter serving a couple a romantic 3 course meal – with tables, chairs, silver service – the works!

    Reply

    • Clare Overton Lewis June 17, 2014

      Sounds brilliant! I used to love Red Nose Day when I was a student!! Excellent use of the lifts.

      Reply

  4. Zeta Sutcliffe May 31, 2014

    I can’t remember when these lifts first appeared, but think it may have been in the late 1980s or the 1990s?? My late husband worked for Aston University until 1982, and the external lifts were not in place at that time.
    I do remember, quite fondly, the old Pater Nosta lifts, on the inside of the building! I think the ones on the outside were added when the pater nostas were removed !! I might be wrong???
    I’ve seen many lecturers and students jumping onto the pater Nosta as it almost disappeared to the next floor! Health and Safety ? That’s why they were removed.

    Reply

    • Clare Overton Lewis May 31, 2014

      Hi Zeta, thanks for your reply. I think my pen-friend came over in the mid-80s and definitely before 88, so that’s narrowing it down a bit. I never went in the pater nosta lifts in the University but I had relatives who worked at the Dental Hospital so I went in the ones there. They terrified me! They definitely weren’t safe. Always wondered whether the compartments went over the top and down the other side and whether you’d end up falling on your head if you stayed on!

      Reply

      • John Langley September 2, 2014

        I was at aston between ’83 and ’87 when they were installed. I would guess at ’85-’86. I used the paternoster lifts and think they were closed in ’84.

        Reply

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