A DESCENDANT of one of the central figures of the 1868 Blaenavon Riots travelled with her family all the way from America to see the site of the one of the most notorious events in the town’s history.

Alicia Morris Groos is the great, great granddaughter of John Morris, former landlord of the Lion Hotel, where a riot broke out in 1868 after a Conservative MP was returned in the General Election - when most Blaenavon people supported the Liberals but did not have the right to vote.

Soon after the incident, which ended with the Riot Act being read and troops called in to restore order, Mr Morris emigrated to America - and Mrs Morris Groos grew up hearing tales of his eventful previous life.

On the 150th anniversary of the riot last November, Blaenavon Town Council unveiled an information board on the wall of the hotel, and a reenactment of the riots was held.

Mrs Morris Groos, who works as a lawyer in Austin, Texas, first visited Blaenavon three years ago and has kept in touch with the community via Facebook.

When she read about the anniversary, she decided to visit the town on her next trip to the UK.

“I loved bringing my husband and our two girls to Blaenavon to visit the town and learn more about our family history,” she said.

“It has been very meaningful to me to help my kids understand where their ancestors came from and to learn more about Blaenavon and Wales as they are today.

“I learned through Facebook and emails from The Lion about the historical reenactment and commemorative plaque that was put up on the wall, acknowledging the riot that took place there 150 years ago which led to my family’s immigration to the USA.

“The family story was always that there had been some sort of political riot and that 'The Red Lion' (as it was called) family pub was destroyed in the process and the family lost everything. We also heard that one of the rioters had died or been killed - possibly strangled by my ancestor in self-defence.

“We were not sure how much of this story was embellished, especially since John Morris’ obituary in the paper in the USA when he died presented him as a very fine upstanding citizen, well-known around town, an elected official, and very civic-minded who didn’t seem like the murderous type.

“It’s very interesting to learn that most of what we had heard down through the generations was in fact accurate, including that someone died during the riot.

“I wish I could ask him about it. They must have been devastated and terrified. Fortunately, the family was able to start over again in the US.”

As well as staying at The Lion, Mrs Morris Groos visited several sites around the town where her family had links to.

"In addition to the plaque at the Lion, my great, great, great grandfather, John Griffith Williams (father-in-law of John Morris of The Lion), is mentioned several times along the timeline at the visitor centre for his contributions to building the town commercial centre," she said.

"Many of my family members are buried at St. Peter’s church too and we visited their graves."

Mrs Morris Groos and her family stayed at The Lion for two nights and had dinner there with Mayor Cllr Jac Denley-Jones.

Cllr Denley-Jones said: “It's great that we still have this present link with Blaenavon's past.

“Alicia grew up not really knowing if the story was true - but now she's seen the official evidence.

“It was lovely to welcome the whole family to Blaenavon and we're hoping that there will be many more future visits from them."