Burials have probably taken place in the churchyard since this place of worship was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086.
The church is surrounded on three sides by the churchyard, which is bounded by an 18th-century brick wall. A churchyard was probably established when the first church on the site was built, and it is likely that burials have taken place here for almost 1,000 years, long before the earliest surviving grave marker (1725).
Today, the entrance to the churchyard is through a timber gate on the north side of the tower, but before 1910 it was through a gate in the north wall. The churchyard contains numerous tombs and headstones, mostly of limestone or sandstone, and many of the older ones are covered in lichen and moss.
It is possible that the shape of the churchyard has changed over time and that earlier burials are now located outside the current churchyard walls. Below-ground archaeological studies may in future establish further information about the site.
The churchyard is rich in finely carved monuments, dating from the 18th to the 21st centuries. Many are of high quality, with symbolic and allegorical reliefs and decorative lettering. Headstones survive for the period 1725 to 2006, and earlier burials were either unmarked, or their gravestones have not survived.
The 18th-century gravestones are all of limestone, frequently carved. For example, a headstone of 1737 shows a bat and a skull, and other monuments of the 1740s show cherubs and crossed palm branches. Some of these decorative carvings are so similar that they are probably by the same mason.
The earliest sandstone headstones in the churchyard date from the 1820s. By Victorian times, monumental shape, decoration and lettering was more elaborate and some graves have both headstones and footstones (though in the 1970s many footstones were sited beside their headstones).
Other types of monuments include a few chest tombs, cross-shaped headstones, simple marker stones, kerbstones, and a sarcophagus-shaped tomb. A few have visible masons' marks: for example, five headstones dating between 1900 and 1925 were made by Hanchett of Bury St Edmunds, a firm of monumental masons established in 1776.
The churchyard walls
The 18th-century walls contain reused materials, such as medieval and Tudor bricks from the manor house, and large pieces of shaped Barnack stone in the foundations, possibly originally from the Abbey at Bury St Edmunds and reused in the former manor house. The wall was completely rebuilt during the 2012-13 restoration, and various pieces of historically interesting stone, found during the works, were placed in the rebuilt walls.
The churchyard has many mosses, lichens and liverworts on headstones, including the common orange lichen, yellow scale and Flavoparmelia caperata. Most of the lichens are crustaceous species, and may grow as little as 1mm per year.
There are at least four species of bats in the church and churchyard, including the common pipistrelle, Daubenton's, and brown long-eared species. A bat survey identified that there is evidence of bat roosts within the church building. Their breeding sites and resting places are protected by law.
The churchyard contains a combination of wild cherry trees, small yews, two large Scots pine, ash trees, Lombardy poplars, lilac and sycamores, some heavily clad with ivy.