Our Story & History
The Briars evolved over 170 years from a working farm to one of Ontario's prominent resorts.
The original land grant was made to British Navy Captain William Bourchier (bow-cher), who built a Regency manor house overlooking Lake Simcoe in 1840. Bourchier named his home "The Briars" after the residence of friends in St. Helena.
While staying at the family home nearby in 1878, Dr. Frank Sibbald fell in love with The Briars, and purchased the property from Bourchier's widow - and the property has been in the Sibbald family ever since. Frank Sibbald was responsible for creating many unique features that guests would identify as Briars "trademarks". These include a peacock house (the only such structure in Ontario), a barn to house Championship shorthorns (became the Red Barn Theatre), the cedar hedges that give Hedge Road its name and a picturesque avenue of huge spruce and pines that leads to the dining room.
The Briars quickly became a regional focal point for agriculture and hospitality. A golf course was started in 1922 in an effort to provide recreation for the area's increasing population of cottagers, and during World War II, The Briars Inn & Country Club was born. During the 1970s, fulfilling a dream shared with his father, John Sibbald and his wife Barbara renovated the Manor House as a new centre for the resort, complete with guest rooms, games room and dining rooms. An outdoor swimming pool and several meeting rooms rounded out this first round of renovations. To meet growing demand, a wing with indoor swimming, fitness facilities and a congenial pub was added, larger meeting and conference spaces were created, and the resort began year-round operation. The Briars continues to keep pace with Ontario's growing tourism sector. In 2000, the opening of the Briars Spa was met with enthusiasm by guests and day visitors. This state-of-the-art facility offers a broad menu of services in seven tranquil treatment rooms.
Although the property has changed over a century and a half, the genuine hospitality and beautiful natural surroundings of the Briars remain just as authentic as ever.
“ Although the property has changed over a century and a half, the genuine hospitality and beautiful natural surroundings of the Briars remain just as authentic as ever. ”
John and Barbara Sibbald continue to own and operate The Briars with the help of their younger sons, Hugh and Andrew, and their wives, Sheila and Janet. Their oldest son, Peter, is a photojournalist; you can see some of his work on this web site. He also helps people record their stories.
The next generation is preparing their skills to serve you, experiencing and learning the warmth of hospitality that will keep The Briars traditions alive for future generations.
If you love history, every Saturday morning and often mid-week, guided history and nature walks take place on the Briars estate.