This is one of Sixteen Etchings of Scenes on the Thames which Whistler completed by 1861.
They resulted from a campaign of drawing along the river in which the artist sought to document its everyday life and preserve working scenes soon to be lost. Here a lime burner, W. James of Thames Street, is shown with the tools of his trade in a ramshackle riverside wharf. Lime was brought in by boats and burnt in riverside kilns at this date. It was used in the building trade and for quenching the stench of the heavily polluted river.