The main feature of the churchyard is the magnificent old yew tree, which is supposed to be the finest in Derbyshire and is calculated to be about 800 years old.
One of its largest limbs stretching westwards was detached by a great gale in 1846, when the lower chain band was affixed. Another large bough reaching northwards was blown off by a high west wind during a fierce storm about 1850, when a second strong chain was fastened round the tree, a little above the former.
This chain was made at the blacksmith’s forge opposite the church and an anecdote about this concerns a man who had obtained casual work with the blacksmith and helped to weld the chain to fix it to the tree. The mad did not remain long in the blacksmith’s employ but returned to America from where he had escaped after committing murder for plunder. He was recognised and hanged for his crime.
Ropes and supports were fixed in 1934 and 1959 and, because the tree was considered to be in a parlous condition, in January 1978 it was trimmed and corsetted with steel bands.
In 1983 the tree’s girth was measured and recorded as being 15 feet 7 inches.
In 1976 the Sitwell family of Stainsby House made the gift of half an acre of land as an extension to the churchyard, on the understanding that a plot measuring 24 feet by 24 feet was reserved as a burial ground for the Sitwell family.
This plot is located in the northwest corner of the churchyard and contains several gravestones of the Sitwell family, who ceased to live at Stainsby in 1939.
There was a further extension to the burial ground in 1938 and again in 1956 when the area currently in use was consecrated.
A survey of the burial ground was undertaken in 1989 when all graves were listed and all inscriptions on headstones, where decipherable, recorded. All inscriptions on memorial tablets within the church have also been listed.
The Reverend Charles Kerry is buried in the shade of the yew tree and his red granite tomb can be identified to the right of the path when approaching the church. The design of the tomb, with its Latin inscription, was all meticulously detailed in the Will of the Reverend Kerry.
The inscription on the tomb reads:
“Hi Jacet Carolus Kerry Sacerdos Qui Obit A.D. 1908 Domum Veni Ad. Dormiendum In Matris Gremio”
which translates as:
“Here lies the Reverend Charles Kerry who died AD 1908 I have come home to sleep in my mother’s bosom”.
The significance of the engraving of bells on the tomb relates to the fact that the Reverend Kerry bequeathed money to the church to finance the building of the Bell Tower and the provision of the bells.
Garden of Remembrance
As the number of cremations have increased over the years and people wished to have their ashes interred at Smalley, the creation of a Garden of Remembrance was approved in 1967. This is situated in the north-east corner of the churchyard and was dedicated in 1970.