1842. Cranford, a market town in the North West of England, is a place governed by etiquette, custom and above all, an intricate network of ladies. It seems that life has always been conducted according to their social rules, but Cranford is on the cusp of change... For spinsters Deborah Jenkyns, the arbiter of correctness in Cranford, and Matty, her demurring sister, the town is a hub of intrigue - a handsome new doctor Frank Harrison from London has arrived; a retired Army Captain and his daughters have moved in to a house opposite and the preparations for Lady Ludlow's garden party are underway. Everyone - from charming rogue Dr Marshland to mean Mrs Jamieson and her lap dog - talks, and is talked about, behind closed doors. The town also has its secrets which it slowly reveals; Matty's encounter with an old flame at the garden party; Lady Ludlow's land agent Mr Carter teaching a gypsy lad to read and write; the wild expectations of the May Day celebrations and - news that shakes the town when it is revealed - a railway line from Manchester is coming to Cranford.