This re-examination of the successful indictment of James Muspratt and other polluting alkali manufacturers by Liverpool’s Town Council in 1838 shows that overt hostility appeared during an earlier campaign against coal smoke by the Liverpool Select Vestry. The radical Council elected in December 1835, however, preferred not to intervene directly but by introducing a pioneering bye-law supplementing the ways the aggrieved could act on their own behalf. The high rate of conviction at the consequent summary trials is explained as the inability of defence counsel to prove that the comfort of their clients’ neighbours had not been disturbed by chemical pollutants, but the failure of the manufacturers to use the effective remedial devices they had promised meant that the nuisance and smoke remained, at their worst around the North Corporation School. A previously unnoticed instruction by the Council’s Education Committee to the Town Clerk to investigate fresh action is shown to have led to the indictments of 1838, a decision widely welcomed in Liverpool. The convictions were followed by systematic supervision from police officers and prosecution by the Council’s legal officers and the most offensive processes were abandoned within 18 months.