An orphan raised by her aunt, Miss Barbary, Esther's parentage is a mysterious secret. On her aunt's death she is taken in by John Jarndyce and becomes a companion to his wards, Ada Clare and Richard Carstone.
A native of East Yorkshire, England, Anna Maxwell Martin has appeared in the films The Hours and Enduring Love, the stage production of His Dark Materials, and played Daphne Manners in Radio 4's adaptation of The Jewel In The Crown.
In 2004, she played Bessie Higgins in North & South which was voted the top drama of the year by BBC viewers. In 2005, she guest-starred in an episode of the new Doctor Who series called The Long Game.