Esther Waters (Kathleen Ryan) is a young woman living in 1880's London. Forced by her abusive father to start work she becomes a servant in an aristocratic household. She falls in love with the handsome footman William Latch (Dirk Bogarde), who seduces and then abandons her. Esther returns to London and then quite by chance they meet again and while Esther initially rejects William's advances, eventually they marry. However William falls ill and hopes for a big killing on the horses so he can to move his family abroad. Will he succeed and change their lives for the better or will the family face financial ruin and disaster?