Fisherman’s Cottage was originally built between 1740 and 1760; starting as a single room, single-storey building, comprising of slightly more than the present lower room. In the excavation of the site, domestic and builders’ refuse was discovered. Clay pipes were also found, one of which was marked ‘RB’, which provided the most accurate dating as this was made in Portsmouth between 1743 and 1760. Clay pipes had very short lives, so are an excellent dating tool.
Before 1792, foundations of the south-east end wall of building failed due to its site on the cliff edge and the wall started to lean towards the sea. This dragged the roof structure over with it, so all the trusses are 5–10 degrees off vertical. Around the same time, the internal dividing wall was heightened to create two loft spaces, most likely used for sleeping or storage. A lean-to shed was built against the south-east end, parts of which still survive as the revetment wall to the terrace overlooking the sea.
During the early 19th century, the Cottage was acquisitioned by the Board of Ordnance as part of its expansion of military defences on the Town Hill. During renovations to the Cottage, the ground floor was dug down a level and joists were laid using a variety of recycled timbers, including old rafters, joists and recycled ships’ ribs. The ships’ ribs are identifiable by the large peg holes, which were once used for attaching hull planks.
In the late 19th century, Purbeck limestone was used by the Army as flooring for the Cottage, a relatively expensive material and only used in higher status buildings. Apart from a short period of occupation by a lady and her young son during the Second World War, the Cottage was abandoned as a residence by the 1950s. It was reused as a gardener’s bothy and workshop by the Parish of St Helier, who had bought it as part of the military structures of Town Hill from the Crown after the departure of the Garrison in about 1929.
The Cottage was left unused for a number of years due to safety concerns. The Parish was looking into alternative uses for the Cottage and it was agreed that it should be refurbished into a holiday let. Building work commenced in 2011, which involved carefully dismantling and reconstructing gable walls and reusing the majority of the original panelling and doors to keep the traditional feel. Fisherman’s Cottage was completed in August 2012.