A scrivener notary practises almost exclusively as a notary public and who is also a member of the Worshipful Company of Scriveners of the City of London (the “Company”), having qualified in accordance with the Company’s rules. The Company, which is one of the oldest City livery companies, traces its origins as far back as 1373.
The mediaeval regulations and ordinances for the governance of the Company ensured integrity in business and competence in practice. Notaries appear as members of the Company from 1392 onwards, when it issued new ordinances to coincide with the appointment by the Archbishop of Canterbury as Papal Legate of laymen as papal and imperial notaries.
From the granting of the Royal Charter in 1617, the officers of the Company regularly made Visitations throughout the Company’s Jurisdiction covering the City of London, Liberties of Westminster, Borough of Southwark and the Circuit of three miles from the City boundary. These Visitations were to inspect the quality of the documents being written by all scriveners, whether members of the Company or not.
During the 17th century the Scriveners, having established control of conveyancing in London (though not elsewhere), gradually evolved to deal primarily with land agency and the confidential negotiation of loans as “Money Scriveners”, while their original functions were increasingly usurped by attorneys whom the Company was unable to compel to become members. Intense struggles took place between the evolving professions. From the Act of Parliament of 1729 “for the better Regulation of Attorneys and Solicitors”, legislation progressively strengthened the solicitors and constrained the attorneys.
As London’s trade and commerce grew in value and volume in the 18th century, so did the demand for legal services, giving increased opportunities for attorneys and solicitors to break in upon the Scriveners’ traditional responsibilities.
In 1801 the Company secured the Public Notaries Act, compelling all persons applying to the Archbishop of Canterbury for faculties to become notaries within the jurisdiction of the Company to become members of the Company before applying to the Court of Faculties (set up under an Act of Henry VIII to administer the faculty-granting and other like powers of the Archbishop). This gave the Company responsibility for ensuring that such persons were properly qualified. The Company’s professional activities were effectively limited to regulating the London Scrivener Notaries in 1804, when the preparation of deeds by non-professional persons was prohibited by statute, and membership of the Scriveners Company was not included in the list of those authorised to draw up conveyances for payment contained in the Stamp Act of that year.
The Access to Justice Act in 1999 removed the exclusive jurisdiction of the Company over Notaries wishing to practise within the City of London. However, the company continues to examine, admit and regulate Scrivener Notaries.
The Society of Scrivener Notaries was incorporated on 26th February 1996 to take over from the Society of Public Notaries of the City of London as the representative body for practising Scrivener Notaries. The Society was admitted as a full member of the International Union of Notaries (UINL) in 1998.