Walking through Pillgwenlly in Newport, you might stroll past one particular building without even noticing it. Sitting between a little row of terraced houses on Temple Street, close to Pill's main thoroughfare, the former Pill library is actually one of the city's most historic buildings.

Dating back to 1889, the late Victorian building on the north side of Temple Street is notable for its red brick architecture, towering above the rows of homes either side of it. But aside from its significance to the community of Pill - one of Newport's most diverse areas - it also has a hidden place in Welsh rock folklore.

Originally, the building was a Newport library branch reading room before later being upgraded to a branch lending library. For a century it served as Pill library before services were transferred to a new branch in Commercial Road in January, 2009, and it has since become a community hub.

Read more: From The Clash to Idles: The melting pot of artists in a Welsh town with a massive punk rock legacy

Look high above the door of the building up at the pediment, however, and you'll spot the words 'Knowledge is Power' inscribed in stone above the top floor window. It is these three words that one day in the early 1990s inspired one of Wales' most renowned acts, Manic Street Preachers.

The story goes that the band's lyricist and bassist, Nicky Wire, felt inspired by the inscription - originally coined by English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon – and how it summed up an ideal of working-class culture and gave power to those without the resources to learn by other means. He later said it had directly influenced the opening line of the band's 1996 hit, A Design for Life, 'Libraries gave us power'.

The old library in Temple Street, Pillgwenlly, in Newport
The building is nestled between a row of terraced houses
The old library in Temple Street, Pillgwenlly, in Newport
'Knowledge is power' is inscribed in stone above the door

More than a decade later the band are renowned as one of Wales' greatest musical exports and have seen international success. In 2009 they were invited to open the new Cardiff Central Library, which included the aforementioned lyric on the opening plaque.

Writing in The Guardian back in 2011, Nicky Wire said: "Without money, libraries became something of a lifeline, offering a clear window on to a wider world. In the summer of 2009, the band were honoured to be asked to open the new Cardiff Central Library. For us, it seemed like a chance to give something back to Wales.

"Seeing one of our lyrics – 'Libraries gave us power', from A Design for Life – inscribed on the opening plaque was in its own way as affecting as playing the Millennium Stadium.

"That opening line was adapted from an engraving above the entrance to Pill library in Newport that read 'Knowledge is power.' The weight of those almost Orwellian words became intertwined with an idea about what the miners had given back to society when they built municipal halls and centres across the country – beautiful looking institutes that they proudly left for future generations."

Nicky Wire performing with Manic Street Preachers at Glastonbury last month
Nicky Wire performing with Manic Street Preachers at Glastonbury last month

Released at the height of Britpop, Wire explained that the lyric was also a criticism of perceived attempts to co-opt elements of working class culture into the wider political and social sphere at the time, while people from those communities saw no improvement to their lives.

"The lyric was me railing against what I saw as a flippancy pervading the country with the rise of Britpop, a wholesale adoption – and bastardisation – of working-class culture," he wrote.

A Design for Life opened the Manics' music up to a wider audience, appearing on their fourth album, Everything Must Go, which became their best selling record at that time. As well as becoming a working-class anthem representing the band's left-leaning politics, it also helped pull them from the devastating disappearance of their lyricist and guitarist Richey Edwards a year earlier.

The old library in Temple Street, Pillgwenlly, in Newport
The building retains most of its original features to look at

That opening line has become synonymous with fans and is often repeated - in fact, it has even outlasted the original use of the building that inspired it.

A couple of years after the library moved out of the Temple Street building, it underwent a multi-million refurbishment as part of the wider regeneration of Pill and today houses Pillgwenlly Community First hub, offering meeting spaces for various community groups as well as training and other facilities. Outside it retains most of its historic frontage, including the 'Knowledge is power' inscription above the door that has sealed its place in Welsh music legend forever.