This unusual surname is of Anglo-Saxon origin, and was originally given either as a topographical name to someone who lived by a briar patch, deriving from the Olde English pre 7th Century "braer, brer", Middle English "brer", prickly thorn-bush, or as a nickname to a prickly individual, "sharp as brere" (Chaucer), from the same word applied in a transferred sense. Topographical surnames were among the earliest created, since both natural and man-made features in the landscape provided easily recognizable distinguishing names in the small communities of the Middle Ages, and nicknames were originally given with reference to a variety of personal characteristics, such as physical attributes or peculiarities, and mental and moral characteristics. Early examples of the surname include: John in le Breres (Huntingdonshire, 1273); William Brere (Yorkshire, 1346); and Willilmus del Breres (Yorkshire, 1379). In the modern idiom the surname has seven variant spellings, including: Brear, Brier, Bryer and Briars. On September 3rd 1559, John, son of William Bryer, was christened at Salford, Bedfordshire. A Coat of Arms granted to the Bryer(s) family in 1664 is a silver shield with three swans sable or ermines, on a red canton, a gold falcon volant, the Crest being a horse's head ermine. The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Walter le Brer, which was dated 1255, in the "Hundred Rolls of Shropshire", during the reign of King Henry 111, known as "The Frenchman", 1216 - 1272. Surnames became necessary when governments introduced personal taxation. In England this was known as 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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