The local pub has played a vital part in the community for centuries, but in recent years thousands of independently-owned pubs across the country have closed, many because of the recession.

Chippenham has been no exception to this trend, and a decline in trade has resulted in the closure of The Three Crowns and The Bear reducing its opening hours.

The freehold of The Three Crowns is for sale for £170,000 and Fleurettes agent Chris Irving is optimistic a buyer will be found soon.

He said: “We have just started marketing the pub, but there is quite strong interest in it.

“We have about seven or eight people looking around it today and it has attracted interest from a mix of people.

“There are quite a few rooms upstairs so some people are looking at it from a Bed and Breakfast angle, some as a pub and some from a residential angle.”

Members of the Chippenham Pubwatch scheme were shocked to discover the building empty when they visited.

PC Barbara Young said: “We were not aware that it was closing, and we do not know what happened. I deal with the Pubwatch things every month and I went there to see them but it was closed.”

Many landlords across the town claim the financial downturn has affected trade.

Paul Reed took over the tenancy of The Four Seasons in Market Place in December and said business is suffering because of the cut-price drinks offered at Wetherspoons’ The Bridge House in Borough Parade.

He said: “I think every single pub in any town in the country with a Wetherspoons is suffering. We are still getting our regulars in, but we just can’t compete with their prices. We are owned by Fullers so they set the prices for us and we have to stick to them.

“We can run promotions, but even with those we can not undercut Wetherspoons.

Matt Boast, Manager of Jax in Bath Road said: “Business is pretty good for us at the moment.

“I think initially when Wetherspoons opened we were a little bit worried, but we have a local trade and it seems to be going ok now.

“It is January, which is always a quieter month, and the pubs that aren’t going to survive won’t survive.”

Gladstone Arms manager Heather Bolton said business has not been affected by the new Wetherspoons, because the two appeal to different customers.

She said: “We are more of a gastro pub and wine bar so our customers would be different to those going to Wetherspoons.

“It is a quiet time of the year anyway, but apart from that we are doing quite well as usual.

“I have not seen a difference since Wetherspoons came to Chippenham.”Although staff at Wetherspoons admit the new pub has proved popular, they do not think they are to blame for the demise of other pubs in the town.

Brothers Geoff and Paul Windle, who took over the lease of the Lysley Arms near Derry Hill in June last year, said they have had a successful few months.

Geoff said: “We had a very good Christmas and a successful New Year’s Eve party but it has eased off a bit now, which is to be expected for this time of year.

“The type of people who go to Wetherspoons are not the same people who would come to pubs like ours.”

Rhian Shellard, duty manager at The Bridge House, said: “I think the other pubs around here are more like locals’ pubs, and I do not think those people would change where they drink.”