Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Start, the n.

[? SE start, a shock, a surprise; thus the effect of entering prison + a new start to one’s life, whether good or bad ]

1. [mid-18C–early 19C] (also the Old Start) a prison, esp. Newgate [? Newgate as the start of one’s journey along Holborn towards Tyburn].

2. [mid-18C–19C] (UK Und., also Stait, the) London [London is the starting point for a tramp’s journeying round Britain].

3. [mid-19C] (UK Und.) attrib. use of sense 2, pertaining to or from London.

4. [mid-19C] the Old Bailey.

5. [mid-19C] [US] New York City [given the lack of other contemporary evidence it is possible that Matsell simply substituted the equivalent US senses here and at sense 6 for the purpose of ‘Americanizing’ senses 2 and 1].

6. [mid-19C] the Tombs prison, New York City.