The Company That Blanketed The World - The History of Moderna

By Issy Shannon

It’s a story of brother against brother, bitter feuds which split a family, triumph against all the odds — but sadly, no happy ending.

No, it’s not an episode from one of the "soaps" but the real-life tale of an Upper Calder Valley company which literally ended up "blanketing" the world!

The saga starts in 1830, a time when the violent exploits of the Luddites were still within living memory and hand loom weavers throughout the north were facing extinction as the Industrial Revolution continued its inexorable march.

Like many others, the Ratcliffes of Midgley had for decades produced woollen goods in their cottages, making the weekly journey to the Piece Hall, Halifax, to sell to the merchants; unlike most of their neighbours, however, they realised that, with the advent of the power loom, such cottage industries were doomed and took the radical step of embracing the new technology instead of opposing it.

Weaving shed

Weaving Shed


Moderna Albert Mills


Moderna Mills Foreman

Childrens Parade

Childrens Parade

Joshua and Squire, sons of the recently deceased John Ratcliffe, decided to install some of the "infernal" machinery in part of a mill at Denholme, Luddenden Foot (a site later occupied by Luddenden Foot Co-operative Society).

As a small business manufacturing blankets, they went into production in 1830, succeeding so well that by 1852 the first major milestone had been reached.

The Denholme mill was sandwiched between the canal and main road, offering little scope for much-needed expansion. So a site at Green Hill, Mytholmroyd, was purchased, and it was here that a new and much larger mill was erected.

It wasn’t long before the huge demand for their goods made further expansion essential and the Albert Mill - named after Queen Victoria’s consort - was built alongside Green Hill Mill, which now housed the finishing room and warehouse.

The story continues! Read how the bitter feud broke out between two partners — and how young Norman Culpan saved the company in the 1930s.

Read the full story in Milltown Memories, issue 3. If this or other stories stirs a memory, we'd be happy to know - send us your memories and comments.