Fate brings about a huge change in the life of Obadiah Shaw, the sturdy fourteen-year-old son of a smallholder. He saves the life of Mary Ellison, the niece of a small industrialist and accepts a job at his Hosiery workshop. Thus begins the rise of Obadiah Shaw from farm labourer to factory owner and a pioneer of the Industrial Revolution.
Obadiah marries Mary and together with their partners, Arkwright and Strutt, they build the first successful cotton spinning mill in the world. They bring about the repeal of the Calico Act, allowing the manufacture of cotton fabrics, thus resulting in huge demand for spun cotton yarn.
With their shared vision of a different sort of factory community, the Shaws oversee the change from a small hosiery business to a multifaceted group called Amber Mills, incorporating hosiery knitting, fine cotton spinning, weaving, and haute couture.
Rivals since childhood with Billy Sutcliffe, Obadiah's rise to wealthy mill owner, fuels Billy's envy. Following several encounters, rivalry turns to hate and Billy, whose life is falling apart, sets out to wreak havoc and vengeance on Obadiah.
What follows is a battle for survival.