Recorded as Briar, Briars, Briers, and others, this is (usually) an English surname. It is one both ancient and probably not what it seems. It has several possible origins. The first is topographical for one who lived at 'The briars.' This is from the pre 7th century word 'braers', and in this connotation refers to defensive belts of blackberry deliberately planted around properties to ward off unwelcome visitors, and to provide a useful food source. A second possible origin is as a nickname for a 'prickly' person, or perhaps given the robust attitudes of the medieval period, the complete reverse! The early surname development also appears to include Andre Brieux, a French Huguenot refugee, recorded in London in 1697, and another possible source of the name. A century earlier on September 29th 1579, William Briars was a witness at the church of St. Mary Somerset, in the city of London. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of John inle Breres. This was dated 1279, in the Hundred Rolls of Huntingdonshire, during the reign of King Edward Ist of England. He was also known to history as "The Hammer of the Scots", 1272 - 1307. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was sometimes known as the Poll Tax. Throughout the centuries, surnames in every country have continued to "develop" often leading to astonishing variants of the original spelling.
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