The Tonkins cottage was on the southern corner of Gwavas Terrace which consisted of a number of dwellings. There was a small strip of garden at the front and two front doors; one led to the Tonkins cottage and the other to that of their nearest neighbour. The other dwellings of Gwavas Terrace were accessed at the side and back of the Terrace. On the landside there were orchards.
The Tonkins’ cottage was rather larger than the other cottages in the Terrace, being roomy enough for two visitors. However, as with all cottages in Newlyn in the 1880s, there was no running water and sanitation relied on the night soil cart, and the only light was from a paraffin lamp or candles and there was no light in the streets at all.
The front door of the Tonkins cottage opened into a hallway. There were doors on either side to the parlour and front room, and a kitchen at the far end. A staircase rose to the three bedrooms on the floor above. At the far end of the kitchen, there was a window and a door into the linhay. The linhay was a paved yard surrounded by neighbouring cottages, whose upper storeys projected over it, so that only its centre was open to the sky. The sheltered portion served as a store-place. The linhay at Gwavas Terrace could be accessed directly from the street by means of a covered ope, which was a dark passage or tunnel running down the side of the house. This was part of the Tonkins’ cottage, although the flying freehold above formed part of the cottage, next door.
There was an upper room above the covered part of the linhay at the Tonkins’ cottage, called the sail loft, which smelled of cutch, tanned nets, tar, and creosote and contained the nets that were out of season or being repaired. This is where Thomas Cooper Gotch made a rough studio in the early 1880s and was used by artists Stanhope Forbes (who stayed at the cottage when he first came to Newlyn in 1884) and Walter Langley. Thomas Cooper Gotch painted some of his most significant early work while staying at the cottage, including Hiding from Granny, 1883 and The Sailor’s Farewell, 1886, both painted in the linhay of the cottage.