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. (also the Old Start) a prison, esp. Newgate [? Newgate as the start of one’s journey along Holborn towards Tyburn].

[UK]J. Cox Narrative of Thief-takers, alias Thief-makers 66: As we were going with the two Prisoners to Newgate, somebody called out, hey Jack, where are you going? And the boy Swannick, the Prisoner, replied, that he was going to the Start for nimming a Cull.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (2nd, 3rd edn) n.p.: start, or the old start Newgate: he is gone to the start, or the old start. Cant.
H. Lemoine ‘Education’ in Attic Misc. 117: And from the start the scamps are cropp d at home.
[UK]Vaux Vocab. of the Flash Lang. in McLachlan (1964) 258: Newgate in London is called by various names, as the pitcher, the stone pitcher, the start, and the stone jug, according to the humour of the speaker.
[UK]‘Jon Bee’ Dict. of the Turf, the Ring, the Chase, etc. 65: A jail-bird is said to have taken his degrees who has inhabited one of those ‘academies’ called starts. [Ibid.] 165: Start (the) — Newgate is thus termed, par excellence. But every felon-prison would equally be a start [...] ‘a country start,’ a county goal [sic]; ‘the b—y start’ (House of Correction) [...].
[UK]Egan Finish to the Adventures of Tom and Jerry (1889) 174: Jack was extremely fond of hearing the trials at the Old Bailey [...] by which means he became a sort of oracle at ‘the Start’ ‡ [ ‡ Newgate].
[UK]Kendal Mercury 17 Apr. 6/1: But at last he vas clinched, and bound fast in the start.

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

[UK]J. Poulter Discoveries (1774) 41: They are made at the Start; that is, London.
[UK]Whole Art of Thieving 36: Putting off bad guineas; they give five shillings for their guineas, and they are made at the Start, that is, London, by two particular people.
[UK]‘Cant Lang. of Thieves’ Monthly Mag. 7 Jan. n.p.: Let us pike to the Start, Let us go to London.
[UK] ‘Life In London’ in Swell!!! or, Slap-Up Chaunter 10: Life in London’s now the start – / The rambling kids are down, sir.
[UK]Metropolitan Mag. XIV Sept. 334: I was had enough at that time, (principally through Alderman Lushington though, I believe.) I have, however, several times since then been all but a croaker in this infernal start, and to-morrow I shall be a stiff’-un to a certain.
[UK]‘Ducange Anglicus’ Vulgar Tongue 34: stait n. London.
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor I 312/2: All the ‘regular bang-up fakes’ are manufactured in the ‘Start’ (metropolis).
[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 57/1: The renowned Duffy, well known to every ‘cross cove’ in the ‘stait’.
[UK]Sl. Dict. 309: Start ‘the start,’ London, ― the great starting point for beggars and tramps. This is a term also used by many of superior station to those mentioned.
[UK]P.H. Emerson Signor Lippo 11: ‘Do you belong to the start or the “monkery?”’ they asked. ‘London,’ says I.

3. (UK Und.) attrib. use of sense 2, pertaining to or from London.

[UK]Leaves from Diary of Celebrated Burglar 8/2: We sent one of our number to the entrance, with orders to ‘pipe off’ a ‘good poke’ and ‘office’ to us while we dawdled around, keeping an eye on the ‘fungleman’ and a sharp look out [...] for any ‘start’ (London) ‘cops’.

4. the Old Bailey.

[UK]Fast Man 6:1 n.p.: Do you know I have only just now been turned up from the start (liberated from the Old Bailey).
[UK](con. 1840s–50s) H. Mayhew London Labour and London Poor III 387/1: I was tried at the ‘Start’ (Old Bailey).

5. 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].

[US]Matsell Vocabulum 85: stait [sic] City of New-York.

6. the Tombs prison, New York City.

[US]Matsell Vocabulum 86: The Tombs. ‘The cove has gone to the old start,’ the fellow has gone to the Tombs.
[US]Trumble Sl. Dict. (1890) 34: Start. The Tombs.