Here are answers to the questions I am asked most.  If you have any other questions, please get in touch.

Notaries are the third, and the oldest, branch of the legal profession in England and Wales.

Notaries have been around since the 13th century. They were originally appointed by the Pope, but after the Reformation, when Henry VIII made himself head of the Church of England, this passed to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A Notary is a qualified lawyer who has undertaken further specialist professional training. Notaries are still appointed and regulated by the Archbishop of Canterbury, through the Faculty Office in London.

Notaries in England and Wales deal with documents for use abroad, in foreign legal jurisdictions. Some documents will only be accepted overseas if they bear the signature and seal of a Notary.

A Notary will authenticate (“notarise”) a document for use abroad and, where required, also arrange “legalisation” by way of a certificate (“Apostille”) from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and any further Embassy or Consular legalisation which may be needed.

A Notary’s primary duty is to ensure that his/her Notarial Act may be relied upon by anyone, anywhere in the world. This is one of the ways in which a Notary is different to a solicitor: a solicitor’s primary duty is to his/her client.

Notaries have to comply with stringent practice rules, and maintain both professional indemnity insurance and fidelity bond cover.

The role of a Notary in England and Wales is unique. In other countries, Notaries only conduct domestic legal business.

The qualification and status of a Notary is recognised throughout the world.

No!  There’s a lot more to it than that.

I will need to verify your identity and ensure that I have complied with my obligations under the Money Laundering Regulations.  I must establish that the person appearing before me, whether in their individual capacity or on behalf of a company or other body, fully understands the document they are signing and intends to be bound by it, and also that they have the necessary capacity and authority to sign.  It may be necessary to get a translation if the document is in a foreign language.  Legalisation may be required, which may in itself present logistical challenges.

Even the most simple and straightforward of matters is likely to involve an appointment of at least 20 minutes.

You will find more about appointments here.

Wherever possible, I will quote you a fixed fee. If that is not possible, or if the matter is going to be more complex, I will charge an hourly rate for the time I spend on your matter. Either way, I will notify you of the fee in advance.

You will find more about fees here.

Individual clients will need to bring at least two documents to verify their identity.  The first is a current valid passport.  The second should show your home address – an original bank statement, utility bill or council tax bill.  I may also need to see original birth, baptism or marriage certificates, proof of divorce, deeds poll on change of name, or statutory declarations.


For company clients, searches may have to be carried out, and I may need to ask to inspect various documents.  The cost of any such searches will be chargeable.

I can advise you further on what is required for your matter before we meet.

I’m afraid not. I will only see clients for Notarial services by appointment.

You should send me a copy of the document in advance (ideally in electronic format, by email). Please also tell me in which country your document is to be used, and how quickly you need it.

Before we meet, I will advise you whether your document will need legalisation, in addition to being authenticated by a Notary, and how this will impact on your timescale. If time is tight, it may be possible to use a premium service – though at extra cost.

Yes.  Ideally we will meet at my office during normal office hours.  In special circumstances, or if the matter is urgent, I am prepared to make appointments outside office hours, but may charge a higher fee.

If you cannot attend at my office, or for corporate clients, I can make arrangements to visit you.  I will charge for travelling time and expenses.

It might seem odd in the modern world that we notaries still use seals and ribbon, but it’s all to do with security and authenticity.

A document produced or authenticated by a Notary is accepted around the world.  It is vital, therefore, that your document cannot be tampered with or altered in any way.

My notarial seal is my unique seal of office.  By sealing your document, I am telling the world at large that it is genuine and can be relied upon.  If your document requires an apostille or consular legalisation as well, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and foreign Embassies will expect to see my notary’s seal on the document.

In centuries gone by, documents were sealed by pressing a metal seal into hot wax.  Nowadays, we emboss the seal onto the document, over an adhesive paper wafer.

If your document consists of more than one sheet of paper, all of the pages will have to be securely bound together.  Old-fashioned as it may seem, the most effective way to do this is to sew the document with ribbon, secured under the wafer and seal.  That way, it’s pretty clear if someone has later tried to add or remove any pages.


Notaries played a prominent role in the public and private affairs of Ancient Rome.  The “Notarius” recorded legal agreements, public proceedings and court judgments.  Notaries were attached to the Senate, courts, provincial governors and the Emperor.  As the Roman Empire expanded across Europe and North Africa, so did the office and role of the Notary.

Roman law was rediscovered in Italy in the 12th century.  The “reception” of Roman Law across Europe led to the development of civil law systems, in which Notaries came to enjoy a central position.  Notaries were appointed by the Pope.

England developed the common law, free from the influence of Roman law.  However, Notaries began to arrive in England in the 13th and 14th centuries, as the Papacy gradually extended its influence across Europe.  The first record of a Notary in England dates from 1258, when a Papal delegation visited England, and in 1279 the Pope authorised the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint Notaries.  Church courts, based on civil law, extended across the whole of England and Wales, and touched the lives of everyone.  Marriage and divorce, wills and inheritance, and even the enforcement of debts fell within the jurisdiction of the church courts, and so Notaries assumed a central role in medieval English life.  At first, most Notaries were clerics, but with the spread of commercial business, lay Notaries were appointed.

Each Notary had his own sign, which he drew on the documents he created:  this is the origin of the modern-day seal.

In the early 1530s, Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.  The Ecclesiastical Licences Act 1533 took powers away from the Papacy and created the Court of Faculties.  Notaries were not mentioned specifically, but whether by accident or design, the role of appointing and regulating Notaries was given to the Archbishop of Canterbury – which remains the case today.  In the 21st century, Notaries are still granted a Faculty to practise, and are regulated, by the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

After the Reformation, Notaries – and civil law – continued to play a part in English legal life.  Ecclesiastical courts, the Court of Admiralty and the Court of Chivalry were all based on civil law, and the Registrar (sometimes called the “Register”) was almost always a Notary.  In the 17th century, Notaries became increasingly concerned with documents relating to international commerce.  The London Tradesman of 1747 – effectively an 18th century careers guide – listed the attributes required of a successful Notary, including not only legal knowledge, but also accounting, languages and other essential skills to succeed in business and trade.

The Public Notaries Act 1843 contains the oath which Notaries still take to this day when they are admitted.

Although the work of the Ecclesiastical Courts and the Court of Admiralty have been incorporated into the mainstream legal system, Notaries still play a role in modern legal life in England and Wales. The Court of Chivalry was briefly revived in 1954 (it appears it was never formally abolished) in a dispute about a local authority coat of arms displayed on theatre curtains, and was jointly led by a Notary.

Notaries used to be limited to a specified geographical area, and only Scrivener Notaries (Notaries skilled in languages and foreign legal proceedings) could practise in London. All of that was abolished in 1999, and now an English or Welsh Notary can practise anywhere in England and Wales.

Today there are around 850 Notaries in England and Wales (as compared with 135,000 solicitors and 15,000 barristers).

Notaries Abroad

Notaries in England and Wales deal solely with documents for use abroad, and the requirements of the laws of other countries.  They act as independent professionals.  Their role is unique throughout the world.

Notaries elsewhere have a slightly different role, depending on the nature of their legal system.  Notaries in other jurisdictions deal solely with domestic legal business, and do not deal with anything involving the laws of other countries.

England is a common-law system. The laws of most Commonwealth countries, and of every state of the United States of America (except Louisiana) are based on the common law.

Notaries in most Commonwealth countries are appointed by the state. In the USA, Notaries are not even qualified lawyers, and have a very limited role.

All of the mainland continental European legal systems are based on civil law.  Unsurprisingly, so too are the legal systems of South America and, more surprisingly, is Japan.

Notaries in civil law countries are state-appointed officials, often required by their governments to provide legal certainty for people entering contracts, including marriage and inheritance contracts.

Scotland (a mixture of common and civil law) and Northern Ireland are separate legal jurisdictions.

An English or Welsh notary can only practise in England and Wales.