19 November 2018
The story of a turbulent time in Blaenavon’s political history is being retold in an information board to be unveiled at the scene of one of the town’s most notorious events.
The Lion Hotel is today a recently refurbished multi-award winning establishment. But on November 23, 1868, it was the focal point of a riot 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.
The rioters attacked properties owned by Tory businessmen. The Lion was a meeting place for Conservatives and the angry mob smashed their way in, ransacking the hotel and stealing or destroying clothes, furniture and books.
One rioter was killed when he charged at an upstairs window, fell out and broke his neck. The Riot Act was read, and troops were called in to restore order.
On the 150th anniversary of the riot later this month, Blaenavon Town Council will unveil their new information board, which cost more than £1,800 to design and erect.
“It has long been the Council’s ambition to have something to physically commemorate the riot of 1868,” said Mayor Cllr Gareth Davies. “Hundreds of people protested because despite Blaenavon having a population of more than 9,000, it had an electorate of just 240 men.
“The wording was provided by local historian Dr Nathan Matthews and the board designed with the assistance of Torfaen County Borough Council. We’re delighted with the result and looking forward to informing visitors and residents alike about a key event in the social history of the town.”
Lion Hotel Managing Director Marc Harris said: “It’s been a great experience working in partnership with the Town Council on this project - and to be able to hold a special evening to commemorate such an event that, for better or worse, is part of the rich historical tapestry of our town.
“The information board itself will be another unique focus point for Blaenavon that will hopefully give visitors to the town a snapshot of our history and heritage.”
Immediately after the unveiling of the board, local dance group Dawnswyr Blaenafon will be performing a re-enactment of the riot, including the reading of the Riot Act. Indoors, the Lion will also have live music.
As part of the history project, the Town Council is also erecting an information board on a wall of the former Ironwork's company shop in North Street, now occupied by Caddick's Builders.
From the Free Press, November 28, 1868
“The liquors first attracted the attention of the rioters. Beer, wines and spirits were carried into the streets. The casks were broached, and the gutters ran with liquors. Many went down on their hands and knees to drink and sucked away like beasts until they reeled and fell senseless.”