Green’s Dictionary of Slang

Holborn Hill n.

In phrases

walk (backwards) up Holborn Hill (v.) (also ride (backwards) up Holborn Hill, push the cart up Holborn Hill, ride in a cart up Holborn Hill, sail up Holborn Hill) [the road to Tyburn led from Newgate jail along Holborn. Criminals trad. stood in the cart facing backwards, poss. to increase their ignominy, but more likely to avoid seeing the approaching gallows until the last possible moment]

to go to the gallows.

[UK]Rowlands Knave of Hearts 78: Though pyrates exempted be / From fatall Tyburne’s wither’d tree, / They have an harbour to arrive, / Call’d Wapping, where as ill they thrive, / As those that ride up Holbourne-hill. [Ibid.] Knave of Spades & Diamonds 109: You by this time stinke in Newgate jayle, / Where we will leave you till the cart do call, / To ride up Holbourne to the hangman’s hall.
[UK]J. Taylor ‘Praise of . . . Beggerie’ in Works (1869) I 101: A Begger seldome rides vp Holborne hill: / Nor is he taken with a theeuish trap.
[UK]H. Glapthorne Hollander III i: Under penalty of being carried up Holborne in a cart.
[UK]Bartholomew Faire in C. Hindley Old Bk Collector’s Misc. 4: It is his [i.e. a pickpocket’s] high harvest, which is never bad, but when his cart goes up Holborn.
[UK]T. Randolph Hey for Honesty IV i: This is a rascal deserves to ride up Holborn, And take a pilgrimage to the triple tree, To dance in hemp Derrick’s coranto: Let’s choke him with Welsh parsley.
[UK] ‘Canting Song’ Head Canting Academy (1674) 24: Away sweet Ducks with greedy eyes / From London walk up Holbourn.
[UK]Dialogue Between Sam, Ferry-man etc. Upon a Parliament at Oxford in Harleian Misc. II (1809) 125: He better deserves to go up Holbourn in a wooden chariot, and have a horse night-cap put on at the farther end.
[UK]‘A Letany’ in Ebsworth Merry Drollery Compleat (1875) 175: From a Taylors tedious Bill, / And Pilgrimage up Holborn Hill, / Libera nos Domine.
[UK]T. Brown Comical View of London and Westminster in Works (1760) I 148: Doleful procession up Holborn-Hill about eleven. Men handsome and proper [...] arrive at the fatal place by twelve.
[UK]A. Smith Lives of Most Noted Highway-men, etc. I 39: He said, he should see them one time or another ride up Holbourn-Hill backwards.
[UK]Life of Thomas Neaves 45: If I had follow’d your Advice [...] nor need I have fear’d sailing up Holborn-Hill, splitting on the Rocks of sweet St. Giles’s, and being cast away at Tyburn.
[UK]C. Johnson Hist. of Highwaymen &c. 165: He gave with a pretty Deal of Grumbling; telling him withal, that he should see him one Time or another, ride up Holborn Hill backwards.
[UK]Richardson Clarissa VII 4: I have seen many a man [...] going up Holbourn-hill, that has behaved more like a man than either of you.
[UK]H. Howard Choice Spirits Museum 14: Great McLaine went up Holborn-Hill, Like Sheppard did of Yore.
[UK]Bridges Burlesque Homer (3rd edn) 380: I’ve hopes to see him still / Ride in a cart – up Holborn Hill.
[UK]G. Parker View of Society II 75: Shove-Tumrill is the flash mode of expressing that a man has been publicly whipped. Another manner of saying this is, he who acted the part of the Strong Man, and pushed the cart up Holborn-hill.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue n.p.: Holborn hill, to ride backwards up Holborn hill, to go to the gallows; the way to Tyburn, the place of execution for criminals condemned in London, was up that hill. Criminals going to suffer always ride backwards, as some conceive to increase the ignominy, but more probably to prevent their being shocked with a distant view of the gallows; as in amputations, surgeons conceal the instruments with which they are going to operate [...] The last execution at Tyburn, and consequently of this procession, was in the year 1784, since which the criminals have been executed near Newgate.
[UK]Grose Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue (3rd edn) n.p.: [as cit. 1785].
[UK]Lex. Balatronicum [as cit. 1785].
[UK]W. Scott Heart of Mid-Lothian (1883) 308: I will see ye gang up Holborn Hill backward.
[UK]Egan Grose’s Classical Dict. of the Vulgar Tongue.
[UK](con. 1737–9) W.H. Ainsworth Rookwood (1857) 255: If I must ride backwards up Holborn Hill, I’ll do the thing in style.
[Aus]Satirist & Sporting Chron. (Sydney) 25 Feb. 1/1: No, no, George, it won’t do, we have heard of your proceedings in King-street — Going up Holborn Hill in a cart, in a cart.
[UK]Leeds Times 19 Nov. 6/5: Criminals were usually brought from Newgate in a cart [...] with their backs to the horse; [...] ‘He will ride backward up Holborn Hill’.
[UK]Leeds Times 29 Dec. 6/5: For Tyburn you mean [...] were in the same boat, I’m thinkin [...] if we must ride up Holborn Hill .
[UK]J. Greenwood Seven Curses of London 115: What must it be to listen to the same bold staves out of the mouths of real ‘roaring boys,’ some of them, possibly, the descendants of the very heroes who rode ‘up Holborn Hill in a cart’.
[UK]Essex Newsman 5 Apr. 3/5: If the officers get a grip of you, you’ll ride up Holborn Hill with a halter round your neck.
[UK]Bath Chron. 10 Mar. 6/1: They day on which they went on their last ride up Holborn’s ‘heavy hill’ each with his own coffin for a seat and with Jack Ketch for a companion.