This is the tale of Arthur Kipps, a part made famous by Tommy Steele in the film version, a twenty year old orphan and an apprentice shopman, at Mr Shalford's Drapery Emporium and Fancy Goods Bazaar. The shop is the biggest and most fashionable of it's kind in Victorian Folkestone, in 1900, and Arthur and the other apprentices, live on the premises in the cellar.
When he asks out his childhood friend and sweetheart Ann, he gives her half a coin as a love token, to which he keeps the other half. However, being poor, Arthur is only able to give her half a sixpence instead of the customary half a sovereign. Unexpectedly Arthur inherits a legacy of 1200 pounds a year and quits his job at the shop. Soon he meets the young, educated, middle class Helen Walsingham, the pair fall in love, and Ann is forgotten. The Walsingham family set about educating Arthur to be a proper gentleman, and before long he asks Helen to marry him, much to everyone's delight. However, when he encounters a heartbroken Ann, who is employed as the Walsingham's parlour maid, Arthur begins to have doubts.
Will Arthur stick with his new middle class or return to his old working class sweetheart? And does his new found wealth really bring him happiness?