The parish of Bullhampton, near Salisbury, was largely the property of the Marquis of Trowbridge, though Harry Gilmore owned in it an estate, Hampton Privets. One of the latter's tenants was the miller Brattle, whose daughter Carry had been seduced and had hidden herself in London and whose son Sam was accused of the murder of Farmer Trumbull. The Marquis demanded that the family be evicted, but Harry indignantly refused.
In this he was ably seconded by the Vicar of Bullhampton, who vigorously attacked the Marquis for his uncharitable demand to punish a God-fearing - though bull-headed-father for the sins of his children.The Marquis resented the Vicar's opposition and to annoy him gave to the Primitive Methodists land for a chapel just opposite the vicarage gates. The hideous building was well on its way to completion when old records disclosed that the property was glebe land. The Marquis was compelled to tear down the offending chapel, to the ill-concealed delight of the victorious Vicar.
When a small boy, Sam Brattle had been one of the Vicar's favorites and, when he was accused of complicity in the murder of the neighboring farmer, the Vicar undertook to befriend him. Through his energy the murderers of Mr. Trumbull were found and Sam was cleared. Carry, discarded by her lover and in want, had returned to the neighhorhood, and the old miller was with difficulty induced to let her return to his home.
The Vicar's charming wife tried to arrange a marriage between their neighbor Harry Gilmore and her best friend Mary Lowther. Harry loved her, but Mary was engaged to her distant cousin Walter Marrable, a prospective heir to a property but with small present fortune. Soon after his engagement to Mary, his father succeeded in swindling him out of all his resources and, discouraged as to the future, they broke their engagement. Mary explained all this to Harry before accepting him, but soon after Walter succeeded to his uncle's estate and returned for her. Harry generously released her from their engagement, and the two lovers were married.
"Ostensibly a novel written in defence of the 'fallen woman,' it has a quaintly solemn preface in which the author apologizes to his public for venturing on ground so delicate. But the book itself fails admirably to fulfill its proclaimed intentions. It is as characteristically Trollopian in plot and staging as the preface in its self-conscious propagandism is uncharacteristic. A vigorous story of village life, The Vicar of Bullhampton presents a delightful parson, several charming ladies, a gruff farmer, a pompous marquis and some aggressive nonconformity."- Sadleir