Upon entering the town, the forces of the Earl of Gloucester discovered the town virtually undefended and Nottingham was at their mercy. The 18th Century historian Charles Deering gives the following account in his History of Nottingham; ‘This same year  the Earl of Gloucester...with great power invaded the town of Nottingham, and spoiled it, the townsmen were taken, slain or burnt in the churches, whereunto they fled’. In most accounts of the event the following is said to have occurred, one of the wealthier citizens of Nottingham was forced to surrender his gold and led his captors into the cellar of his house. It is known that the citizen was named Sveyn, a moneyer who worked at Nottingham’s Mint, and whose house was located where today’s Commerce Square is sited. Sweyn promised to show his tormentors where his treasure was hidden, and lead them through into a rock-hewn basement underneath his house, and in this basement he declared they would find his wealth. The soldiers began to search and explore the dark cellar allowing Sweyn to evade his captors. Once the soldiers were firmly inside, he bolted the door behind him and fled. Before doing so whoever, Sweyn is said to have set fire to his own home to burn those that tried to seize his wealth.
The result was a disaster, as the fire caught hold of the timber home, it began to spread to the neighbouring properties, and eventually most of Nottingham was ablaze. As a result of the loss to his own men during the sacking and subsequent fire, Earl Robert of Gloucester, arrested and captured many of Nottingham’s surviving citizens and notable residents, and marched them to Gloucester to be held captive and presumably held to ransom. Those who hadn’t been captured, and had sought refuge within the town’s churches perished in the flames. Hundreds of civilians are believed to have burned alive within its structures, and many of the town’s buildings were destroyed including the town’s churches. The destruction and devastation was most evident at St Peter’s Church where a large number of residents had sought refuge, and were trapped within its walls. It is unknown the exact number of people who perished in the sacking.
The fire and sacking of Nottingham proved to be a blessing for Nottingham Castle, as the destruction and chaos caused by the fire, had saved the castle from a siege by Earl Robert of Gloucester. Five months later William Peveril the Younger and King Stephen were captured at the battle of Lincoln in 1141, and Nottingham Castle was surrendered to Empress Matilda’s forces as part of the uneasy peace arrangements, with William Paganel becoming custodian of Nottingham Castle.
The Anarchy culminated with the Treaty of Wallingford in 1153, in which King Stephen recognised Henry, the son of Empress Matilda as his heir. It was during the reign of King Henry II, that Nottingham would be granted, and would construct a town wall to prevent a future calamity on the scale of 1140.