Hiram's Hospital, a fifteenth century foundation attached to Barchester Cathedral, provided a home for twelve old men. Through the centuries the income of the foundation had greatly increased, and the Wardenship was a handsome sinecure for the Precentor of the Cathedral. The incumbent, the Rev. Septimus Harding a gentle, 'cello-playing old clergyman, lived near the Hospital, with his younger daughter, Eleanor.
John Bold, a young surgeon of Barchester, although in love with Eleanor, became convinced that the financial affairs of the Foundation were mismanaged and demanded a public accounting. Mr. Harding's son-in-law Archdeacon Grantly, enraged at this assault on clerical prerogatives, fought the case bitterly until Bold, distressed by the uproar he had occasioned, withdrew his suit. Nevertheless the Warden resigned, and after Eleanor and John Bold were married left his post and became Rector of St. Cuthbert's, a small parish in the Cathedral Close.
"The Warden is essential to every lover of Trollope because it is in these pages that he meets for the first time two of the great figures in English fiction, Mr. Harding and Archdeacon Grantly." -Walpole