No occupier is listed, which indicates that it was in the direct tenancy of the farm, perhaps housing a farm servant as part of his wages.
The cottage on the other side of the stream, on the other hand, while belonging to Withan Farm, is listed as a House and Orchard in the occupancy of John Thomas and his family, presumably under a separate tenancy. It was common in Cornwall for labourers or miners to be granted a lease, based on the longest of three named lives, of a piece of land on which they would then build their own tiny house, generally of cob and thatch. John Thomas's cottage may have been of this kind and it could be for this reason that it has vanished, while the more substantial one across the stream has survived.
The quality and solid character of this cottage is surprising if it was indeed the cottage of a farm labourer. Even in the 1860s agricultural writers were commenting on the poor housing of Cornish farm workers and accusing farmers of spending more on their farm buildings than on the houses of the families who worked for them. A cottage of this type, with its separate parlour and kitchen and its two bedrooms, is more the kind of house that was built, according to the writer A.K. Hamilton Jenkin in Cornish Homes and Customs (1934), by someone just above the rank of labourer, but below that of yeoman farmer. 'To this order belonged the mine "captain", the skipper of the little coasting vessel, or the foreman of one of the many small works and foundries which at that time (mid 19th century) flourished in the western part of the country.'
It would be easy to imagine such a person living at the head of Frenchman's Creek, perhaps owning his own small boat and bringing his catch to the fish cellars at its mouth - shown on the Tithe Map as belonging to James Tremayne. Unfortunately the ten-yearly census returns, which are available for 1841 - 1881, contradict this impression. In these our cottage does not appear at all. Under the parish of Manaccan, in which Kestle Wartha occurs, the household at the farm itself is listed and so are three households at Tregithew (including the Mill) just to the south of the creek. But nothing at Frenchman's Pill. Turning instead to the parish of St Martin, on the west side of the creek, you certainly find Frenchman's Pill as a separate entry, after Trevidor and Withan Farms. But the only householder listed in 1841 is John Thomas, who on the evidence of the Tithe Map lived in the cottage on the other side of the stream. In the next three returns, there is still only one household listed at Frenchman's Pill and always under St Martin, so this must always be the other cottage.
The first edition of the 25" Ordnance Survey map, surveyed in 1878, also puts Frenchman's Pill on the west bank, although both cottages are clearly marked. By this time another cottage further down the creek, shown in 1840, has disappeared, but there is still a landing place, known as Withan Quay.
It is unusual for any household to be missed by the census, but this does sometimes seem to happen when the house is that of a servant - there is a house on Trevidor Farm on the Tithe Map that does not feature in the Census for example. The farmers at Kestle Wartha are always listed as employing at least one labourer in addition to domestic servants and it must have been they who lived in the cottage on the creek. Unless of course it was lived in by a succession of mariners who, for reasons best known to themselves, chose to be absent with their families, when the returning officer called.
For the first half of the century Frenchman's Creek Cottage still belonged to Kestle Wartha and for most of that time was let as a labourer's cottage. The Edwardian lady who was sometimes seen there must have been one of their wives. Then, for two or three years before the Second World War, it was let to more exotic tenants. In her evocative and somewhat mannered book, The Helford River (1956) C.C. Vyvyan describes how she and her friend, Maria Pendragon, rented the whitewashed cottage at the head of the creek 'for picnics, day pleasures and lending to our friends.' They called it Cuckoo Cottage and furnished it with old stools and chintz and upholstered hip-baths. Her description of their expeditions there and of the refreshment it gave to its visitors, before they were all engulfed by war, should be read in full but one passage sums up the quality that it had for them:
'Sometimes Maria and I would meet there in the winter, she arriving by boat and I on foot, and we would sit over the fire talking at leisure about this world and many others. Or I would go down there alone, kindle a fire, settle myself in a hip-bath with a book or two beside me and enjoy complete solitude. Often, instead of reading, I would sit gazing out of the window at that wall of trees rising to the sky and feeling the quiet of that place as if it were soft music.'
After the War the cottage is said to have been let to a teacher, who kept a pig in the traditional fashion. Then in 1955 the cottage was sold to Mr and Mrs Hooper, who moved their belongings there by a combination of a coal lorry and an oyster boat. Their daughter, Susan, grew up on the creek and in 1983 the cottage was given to her. The National Trust by then owned much of the east bank and when it transpired that its owner was able to use it less and less frequently, so that it grew more and more derelict and vandalised, they suggested to the Landmark a joint scheme for its acquisition and use.
Accordingly it was acquired by the National Trust in 1987 and leased to Landmark shortly afterwards.