The first mention of this motte and bailey castle of the Bishops of Durham is in King John's reign, when it was captured by one of his mercenary captains, Faulkes de Breaute. In 1217 William Marshall, acting as regent for the young Henry III, ordered Faulkes to hand over the castle to the Bishop of Chichester. Anthony Bek, bishop from 1284 to 1311, is said to have rebuilt the castle in stone. In 1345 Edward III stayed within it and issued orders allowing the election of a new bishop. Most of the existing remains appear to be the work of Robert Neville, bishop from 1438 to 1457. Under pressure Bishop Richard Barnes leased the castle to Queen Elizabeth and she in turn leased it to a series of tenants. In 1648 the castle was sold off by Parliamentary trustees and after this time may have been partly dismantled. It was restored to Bishop John Cosin in the 1660s and the chamber block was patched up as a farmhouse. Bishop William Van Mildert sold off the property c1830 and it has changed hands several times since. In 1923 the chamber block was described as having been recently restored and currently in use as a shooting box.
The principal remnant is a block which contained a long narrow great chamber with a fireplace in the middle of the SE in which are four windows. Below was a cellar and above are two upper storeys of bedrooms. The NW facing windows of the great chamber were obscured when a kitchen was formed on that side over rib-vaulted basement. Originally both kitchen and great chamber had spiral staircases in their respective western corners but there has been much 18th and 19th century rebuilding and a range of that period stands on the site of what is thought to have been a timber-framed hall. Only the lowest stage remains of an L-planned building called the New Tower to the south. It stood four storeys high in the 1560s but was then in a perilous condition. It seems to have contained a smaller hall and chamber over vaulted rooms.