The story of an opulent Manchester hotel both above and below stairs following World War One. The hotel is owned by brothers John (Michael Siberry) and Marcus Bannerman (Mark McGann), with Johns wife Sarah (Julia St John) holding a casting vote. John is dull but reliable; Marcus is devious, unscrupulous - and in love with Sarah. Mr. Collins is the head porter whose son died in the war but who is too proud to let his grief show. Kate Morris (Rebecca Callard) and Monica Jones (Jane Danson) are chambermaids who dream of bettering themselves: things look up for Monica when one of the long-term guests, Esme Harkness (Susan Hampshire) takes her under her wing and teaches her how to be a lady - but is she a real lady?