The Warden is concerned with the unassuming Rev. Septimus Harding, who has for many years been the Warden of Hiram’s Hospital in the fictional town of Barchester. This “hospital” is what we would today probably call an aged-care or retirement home. It was established under the provisions of a will to look after the needs of old men too feeble to work any longer and unable to support themselves. Mr. Harding benefits financially from his position, though the duties are very slight.
A local doctor, though sweet on Mr. Harding’s daughter Eleanor, is nevertheless a keen reformer, zealous to overturn what he sees as corrupt patronage in the Church. He investigates the terms of Hiram’s will and concludes that the money intended for the benefit of the aged wool-carders is unfairly being consumed by the salary of the Warden. He proceeds to pursue this issue through the pages of a crusading journal, The Jupiter.
Though strongly defended by the Church authorities, including his son-in-law Archdeacon Grantly, Mr. Harding has long struggles with his conscience because of this imputation.