‘Beecham House’ recap: What happened in Episode 1?

ITV’s epic new India-set series Beecham House began tonight.

Set on the cusp of the 19th century in Delhi before the British ruled in that region, the six-part period drama depicts the fortunes of the residents of Beecham House, an imposing mansion surrounded by acres of exotic woods and pristine lawns.

Beecham House features a cast of familiar faces from British period dramas, including Lesley Nicol (Downton Abbey), Tom Bateman (Vanity Fair), Dakota Blue Richards (Endeavour), Leo Suter (Victoria), Gregory Fitoussi (Mr Selfridge) and Bessie Carter (Les Miserables).

Here’s a plot recap for the first episode, which aired at 9pm on Sunday 23rd June 2019:

India 1795 and a lone carriage is driven through the wild countryside on the outskirts of Delhi.

At the front of the carriage is John Beecham. His guards sit close by, with their guns at the ready, looking out for strangers and bandits. A grand mansion is being prepared for a new master. The household servants, Baadal and Mool Chand, wait in anticipation whilst Bindu, Mool Chand’s wife, says prayers to bless the house.

John takes up residence in the grand mansion on the outskirts of the city. The staff are shocked to discover that their secretive new master is not only English but has also arrived with his infant son August, a baby of mixed parentage.

An invitation arrives at the house from General Castillon, a French mercenary who works for the Emperor at The Red Fort. Baadal warns John that he is not a good man. Castillon clearly has a deep dislike for the British and the Company and is suspicious of John’s motives for being in Delhi.

He is convinced that he is an agent for the Company. John informs Castillon that he has a new life as an independent trader and requests a licence to trade. Only the Emperor can give this licence. It’s clear Castillon will do all that he can to ensure this doesn’t happen.

Murad Beg, a neighbour, invites John to a party at his home. John soon catches the eye of the only English woman at the party. Margaret, a governess, is a rarity in that part of the world. The connection between them is immediate and undeniable.

John meets the Emperor and makes his request for a licence. Castillon disapproves of John and tells the Emperor. The Emperor decides to test John. Find the perfect gift for the Empress’s birthday and, if he succeeds, maybe John will be given a licence.

With the country in turmoil and political tensions on a knife edge, displeasing the Emperor could prove fatal, and John must tread carefully if he is to secure his future and keep his family safe.

John travels to the docks to meet his mother Henrietta and is surprised to discover that she has travelled with a companion, Violet. It seems that coincidentally a close friend and former soldier Samuel Parker is on the same boat.

Is it coincidence or was it planned? Henrietta, Violet and Margaret see baby August, John’s son. They are shocked – who is the mother?

Life in Beecham House is about to become a whole lot more complicated.