Synopsis of Episode 1 of Season 4:
Gabriel is the handsome and once-wealthy owner of a large iron foundry. But after the bankruptcy of his business and the death of his new wife, Gabriel finds himself both penniless and homeless. Moved by his plight, Dorcas offers him a job as a blacksmith, and a room above the forge. But both she and Gabriel know that the solution is only temporary. Gabriel is determined to regain his wealth and position and bring down the banker, Steerforth, who he believes acted illegally and unethically in repossessing his home and business.
Over in Lark Rise, Emma is thrilled to receive a postal order from Robert, who is away working in Oxford. The hard-earned money will settle her many unpaid bills. She sends Edmund to Candleford to cash the postal order, and although it is a breach of procedure, Dorcas agrees to allow him to collect the money in place of Emma. That night, on his way home to Lark Rise, Edmund is robbed and arrives home to deliver the devastating news that all the money is gone. How will Emma manage with five mouths to feed and no money coming in? And when she discovers the truth behind the robbery, she is faced with an agonising dilemma.
Pearl Pratt, meanwhile, is delighted to have her beloved sister Ruby back home. Her romance with the Pontefract undertaker is apparently over – Ruby dissolves into tears at the mere mention of his name, but will not say what has happened. While Ruby has been away, Daniel has settled in nicely at the Pratts, and Pearl is spoiling him rotten with steam puddings and starched collars. Ruby resents being usurped by Daniel, but Pearl is oblivious and lavishes all her attention on him.
Dorcas feels utterly responsible for the robbery, and resolves never to meddle again – something which Minnie points out will be very hard for her. So when she hears from Steerforth that Gabriel's business and home are up for auction and that Gabriel's story of the bank's wrongdoing is not as simple as it appears, she has to fight the urge to get involved. But when an intervention with Ruby helps her friend come to terms with her doomed love affair, Dorcas finds that her involvement is more appreciated than she thought.
When Gabriel announces his plans to disrupt the auction of his foundry by publicly denouncing Steerforth, risking the ruin of his own reputation and future, she decides to try to help Gabriel face his demons and accept his own part in his downfall.
Gabriel, though, seems deaf to her pleas for sanity, so when the day of the auction arrives and Gabriel is nowhere to be found, Dorcas fears the worst and races to try to stop him carrying out his disastrous plan. But will she succeed, and will Gabriel embrace a new life in Candleford?
Richard Harrington plays Gabriel Cochrane, Julia Sawalha plays Dorcas Lane, Paul Ritter plays Mr Steerforth, Claudie Blakley plays Emma Timmins, Thomas Rhys Jones plays Edmund Timmins, Matilda Ziegler plays Pearl Pratt, Victoria Hamilton plays Ruby Pratt and Ben Aldridge plays Daniel Parish.