IN a corner of Holy Trinity churchyard in Darlington lie broken headstones which have, like the people they commemorated, succumbed to the ravages of time and toppled from the upright. Other headstones have been defaced by vandals – one has both a Kalashnikov rifle and a World Worldlife Fund panda spraypainted on it – and, of course, by the weather.

The wording on one stone is becoming increasingly difficult to read, but a name in the middle of it – Martha Johnson – stands out, revealing that this is the last resting place of the great-great-great-great-grandparents of the current Prime Minister.

The Northern Echo: The headstone of Boris Johnson's great-great-great-great-grandparents, Walter and Hannah Johnson, in Holy Trinity churchyard, Darlington

Last week, Boris Johnson and his Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, visited Teesside to bask in the success of the Budget which brought 750 Treasury jobs to Darlington and created one of the first freeports near the mouth of the River Tees.

Because his ancestors were bakers, Mr Johnson appeared to enjoy hugely that although he was not born in the town, he could claim to have been bread there.

New research shows that those bakers, Walter and Hannah Johnson, along with their children Martha and Walter, lie in Holy Trinity churchyard – and may well have farmed in Mr Sunak’s Richmond constituency.

The Northern Echo: The headstone of Boris Johnson's great-great-great-great-grandparents, Walter and Hannah Johnson, in Holy Trinity churchyard, Darlington

They were living in Darlington when in 1813 they baptised their son, Thomas, at St Cuthbert’s Church on December 19, and it is the former vicar of St Cuthbert’s, Matthew Firth, who has been delving into this story.

The 1841 census suggests that Walter and Hannah had moved on from baking bread in Darlington and were farming at Gingerfield near Richmond.

Today, there are two Gingerfields to the north-west of the town – the old racecourse could properly be said to be at Gingerfield.

The Northern Echo: An Edwardian postcard of Holy Trinity Church, Darlington, where Boris Johnson's ancestors were buried in 1855

High Gingerfield Lodge is the farm in the shadow of the derelict grandstand while Low Gingerfield Farm is a Georgian farmhouse on Whashton Road where Gill Ward runs a B&B and small wedding venue, and has recently branched out into takeaways. On old Ordnance Survey maps, it is referred to as simply “Gingerfield Farm”.

Walter and Hannah Johnson only lived at Gingerfield for a decade or so because the 1851 census described them as “retired farmers” and they were living in Union Street, Darlington – that would be behind Boots off Northgate where an old chapel, which had stood since 1812, has recently been demolished.

The Northern Echo: Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak during their visit to Teesport this morning. Picture: ANDREW PARSONS

Walter and Hannah died within four months of each other in 1855 – he was 81 and she 79 – and they were buried in Holy Trinity churchyard. The headstone records that their children, Martha, who died in 1837 aged 25, and Walter, who died in 1842 aged 27, lie nearby.

Fortunately for the Brexiteers among us, their other child, Thomas, lived long enough to have children. He married Mary Raper in 1831 in Masham where she ran a draper’s shop. They had outlets in Ripon and East Witton. Thomas died in 1858, and Mary returned to Darlington to bring up her two-year-old daughter, Margaret, presumably near other Johnsons.

This Margaret changed British political history, in that her daughter, Winifred, fell for a Turkish journalist, Ali Kemal, whom she met on holiday in Switzerland. They married, but Winifred died while giving birth to their second son, Osman, in 1909 in London.

The Northern Echo: Low Gingerfield Farm: is this where Boris Johnson's great-great-great-great-grandparents farmed?

Margaret was present at the birth and became the children’s maternal figure. During the First World War, Ali returned to Turkey, where he was eventually beheaded, and Margaret decided to Anglicise the children’s names and switched them to her maiden name: Johnson.

She switched Osman’s name to Wilfrid Johnson, and he had a son Stanley who had a son Boris who still goes by a surname originally from Darlington and Gingerfield.

The Northern Echo: The Union Street Congregational Chapel, behind Boots in Darlington, which was demolished earlier this year. It was the last survivor of the street in which the Prime Minister's great-great-great-great-grandparents lived. Picture courtesy of Peter

Many thanks to Matthew Firth for his help.

WHY “Gingerfield”? The Aske estate reckons its name has something to do with it facing east. Can anyone explain?