The Notary originated in ancient Roman times. In a world of widespread illiteracy, they were highly educated men, respected because of their knowledge of the law, trusted because of their high ethical standards and their impartiality ensuring protection and fairness to everyone. Rome operated under a civil law system, i.e. all laws were created by the State. The Notaries were attached to the State as record keepers, personal secretaries to the Emperor and advisors to Government. As well as providing legal assistance and keeping the official archives, they drafted and authenticated documents.

The honesty and integrity remains the essence of a Notary to this day.

The Roman or Latin Notary as they were to be later called spread with the empire to much of Europe, North Africa and South-East Asia. In time, colonisation of other parts of the world by France and Spain would spread the Latin Notarial System. As Civil Law Notaries they practised Civil Lawyers.

In England a common law system had developed, i.e. laws that had evolved out of custom and tradition in the many little kingdoms that had constituted England and following the Norman conquest then selected because they were the laws common to all areas. In England, therefore, a different evolution of the legal system occurred as compared to Italy – common law Notaries rather than civil law Notaries.

In 1279 Pope Nicholas III granted to John Peckham, the Archbishop of Canterbury the faculty of appointing Notaries. In the 1320 King Edward II fell out with the Pope and prohibited foreign Notaries from practicing in England. In 1534 King Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Church altogether and decreed it a criminal offence to apply to the Vatican for a Notarial appointment. Those existing English Notaries had their functions limited to authenticating documents for international commerce and so they specialised.

This is how it remained in England for the next 300 years, save that the Court of Faculties was established and was assigned the power by the Archbishop of Canterbury to appoint Notaries. This process still continues.

With the colonisation of the modern world by England, France and Spain their respective systems were exported to the colonies. Eventually there were Notaries (English) in Australia and northern USA and Notaries (Latin) in the southern USA states and further south into South America.

In 1801 the Public Notaries Act (Imperial) was passed and this heralded the evolution of the present form of English common law Notaries. Civil Law was clearly allocated to Solicitors, and Notaries continued to refine the specialty of preparing and authenticating documents for international commerce. This was not followed in other countries – e.g. in the USA civil Lawyers (Attorneys at Law there) still call themselves Notaries to undertake conveyancing and thereby trade under the very high reputation of the traditional Roman and English Notaries.

In 1961 The Hague Convention abolished the requirement for legalisation of foreign public documents (i.e. by Notarial act) amongst those countries that were signatories to the Convention. Australia signed.

There exists now a number of Notarial Systems with some countries legislating their own system of Notaries: the Latin, the English, the US, the Chinese, and more – even some of the Australian States!

Generally the functions of the English common law Notary and therefore the Australian Notary are:-

  • to draw, attest and/or certify under seal deeds and documents for use anywhere in the world;
  • to administer oaths and declarations;
  • to note or certify transactions relating to negotiable instruments;
  • to draw up protests and papers relative to international trade, including the voyages of ships, their navigation and their cargo;
  • to keep records of all such acts.

They are to be regarded as officers of the law and therefore Lawyers are appointed. The Notary in London, however, must be proficient in at least one foreign language and familiar with the principals and practices of foreign law. He must be able to prepare contracts and mortgages for use abroad, incorporate companies on behalf of foreign clients and convey properties overseas.

Need a Notary Public?

When searching for a Notary Public you will find that they are quite few and far between. But there is one at Sandgate! For an appointment (and you will need one), contact G. R. Brown Solicitor and Notary Public between 8.30am and 5.00pm Monday to Friday by visiting the office at Suite 5, Sandgate Arcade, cnr Brighton Road and Second Avenue, Sandgate, Qld 4017 or by telephoning on 07 3269 8511 or emailing grb@grbrown.com.au .

Where we are

Contact/Visit Us

G R Brown - Solicitor & Notary
Suite 5, Sandgate Arcade
Corner Brighton Rd & Second Ave

SandgateQLD  4017

Plenty of parking - Large private Carpark immediately adjacent.

1300 734 310
or 07 3269 8511
07 3269 1588
[email protected]

8:30am -> 5:00pm
Monday -> Friday
Public Holidays excluded

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