Lead has been used as a roofing material in the British Isles for many hundreds of years. In medieval times, it was used as the roof covering on cathedrals and churches, subsequently being used to roof over many great mansions and country houses. For the last 150 years, it has been greatly used for general domestic construction.
There is evidence of stone buildings in this country dating back to the first century BC. The Romans used stone and brick but there was a decline in the general use of both materials after they left. Nevertheless, the Saxons used stone for significant buildings, as evidenced by the simple churches of the period. The Normans brought their own craftsmen and trained the Saxons to build monumental buildings such as cathedrals and castles, establishing stonemasonry as a recognised craft. However, stone was not used for poorer dwellings until much later, mainly because wood was readily available. Gradually, stone became available to a wider spectrum of society (or perhaps more accurately there was a broadening of strata in society and more people were able to afford stone), until by the 1500s it was in relatively common use.
Infestation is often therefore restricted to, for instance, timbers or parts of timbers built into damp walls. Widespread infestation may occur following the type of diffuse dampness associated with condensation. Examples of this may include the badly heated roof areas of medieval halls or churches or the underside of lead roofs. Although the damage caused by this insect may be limited in scope, it is often structurally significant. This is because it attacks heartwood as well as sapwood and because inbuilt timbers are often carrying loads. Its name, incidentally, is supposed to derive from the fact that the beetles sometimes make a knocking sound during courtship. It is possible that, in the still of the night, those watching over the dying could hear the noise.