1849: Bess Hardemon arrives at the grimly Dickensian Priors Heath school, little knowing that she will one day end up as an inspiring and legendary headmistress - but at considerable personal cost. 1970: Sarah Beckett is delighted to gain a place at Priors Heath - as much for the pride of her parents as for herself - but will she fit in? The plight of a nineteenth century schoolteacher, trapped by her duty to her job, is mirrored by a modern day woman's fight to escape the shackles of a broken marriage. Bess Hardemon, a tough and canny young teacher is determined to make a difference at her new school. At the cost of her own chance of finding love, Bess remains trapped by her duty, a confinement echoed a century later by Sarah, who must make her own choice between duty and her efforts to save a broken marriage.