In 1542 and 1547 he was elected Member of Parliament for Bletchingley which did not have town status and had a smaller forty shilling freeholder electorate than the average of the time, poor enough to be challenged in the courts in 1614.
In 1544 Sir Thomas Cawarden received a patent as Master of Revels and Tents, becoming the first head of an independent office and was knighted at Boulogne in September of that year. Tents were provided for festivals, royal progresses, and in military expeditions. In July and August 1547, Cawarden provided 'hales', 'roundhouses', and a kitchen tent for the mission to Scotland during the war of the Rough Wooing which culminated in the Battle of Pinkie. Cawarden paid for the tents which had been 'wetted in in the shippe' to be dried and put away on their return. Lady Jane Grey as queen requested tents on 19 July 1553. On 1 January 1559 Mary I ordered her officers to collect arms and armour from Cawarden's house to counter Wyatt's rebellion. Seventeen wagon loads were taken. The patent also allowed him to keep 40 armed and liveried servants at Bletchingley Castle or Palace. Soon after his appointment, the revels office and its stores were transferred to a dissolved Dominican monastery at Blackfriars, having previously been housed at Warwick Inn in the city, the London Charterhouse, and then at the priory of St. John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell, to which a return was made after Cawarden's death.
Cawarden formally obtained Bletchingley, which had been the home of Anne of Cleves, on 7 April 1547. He was also keeper of the house and gardens of Nonsuch Palace from 1543 to November 1556. Between 1547 and 1559 he was four times elected knight of the shire for Surrey.
In 1551 Cawarden built a banqueting house in Hyde Park with Lawrence Bradshaw, surveyor of works. Cawarden was in charge of the interior decoration by the painters Antony Toto and John Leades. This by 1556 had been largely superseded by his own Banqueting House at Nonsuch Park close to the original Nonsuch Palace, at the foot of the North Downs which he had been granted in 1547 by King Edward ("a messuage and lands in the manor of Nonsuch alias Cuddington") to hold for 21 years for a rent of £5 5s. 8d equivalent to £2,775 in 2015.
Cawarden died at East Horsley on 25 August 1559. His body was taken to Bletchingley. A brass plate intended for Thomas Cawarden's monument was found at Loseley Park, the home of his executor, Sir William More, in the 19th century. Cawarden was succeeded as Master of the Revels by Sir Thomas Benger.
The Loseley Manuscripts
Thomas Cawarden's official papers survived at his executor's descendents' house at Loseley. These were moved into public collections. A catalogue of the papers in the Folger Shakespeare Library collection is available on-line. Other revels papers are available to study at the National Archives, Kew, and the Surrey Record Office, Woking. Extracts from the papers were first published by Alfred Kempe in 1836, and by the Historical Manuscripts Commission in 1879.
- HMC W. M. Molyneux, Esq., (1879), 601.
- Robison 2004.
- Maija Jansson (ed.), Proceedings in Parliament, 1614 (House of Commons) (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1988)
- Starkey, David, ed., The Inventory of Henry VIII, Society of Antiquaries, (1998), 171-2.
- Kempe, The Loseley Manuscripts, (1836), 104,
- HMC W. M. Molyneux, Esq., (1879), 610, 614-5.
- HMC W. M. Molyneux, Esq., (1879), 597.
- Ellis, Henry, 'Extracts from the Proceedings of the Privy Council, in Archaeologia or, Miscellaneous tracts relating to Antiquity, vol. 18, Society of Antiquaries, (1817), 131-132
- Colvin, Howard, ed., History of the King's Works, vol. 4 part 2, HMSO, (1982), 30-31, 57.
- H.E. Malden (editor) (1911). "Parishes: Cuddington". A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 3. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 25 October 2013.
- Kempe (1836), 18.
- Kempe, Alfred John, ed. (1836). The Loseley Manuscripts. London: John Murray. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
- Robison, William B. (2008). Cawarden, Sir Thomas (c.1514–1559)’. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 17 February 2013. (subscription required)
- Robison, William B. (2004). More, Sir Christopher (b. in or before 1483, d. 1549). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 17 February 2013. (subscription required)
- Smith, Irwin (1964). Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Playhouse. New York: New York University Press. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
- Wallace, Charles William (1912). The Evolution of the English Drama up to Shakespeare With a History of the First Blackfriars Theatre. Berlin: George Reimer. Retrieved 17 February 2013.
- Folger Shakespeare Library, "Guide to the Loseley Collection". (1955–2000)
- Historical Manuscripts Commission, 7th Report, Manuscripts of William More Molyneaux at Loseley Park, (1879), 596-681.
- Kempe, Alfred John, The Loseley Manuscripts, John Murray, London (1836)
- The Loseley Manuscripts at Surrey History Centre
- Loseley Manuscripts at Surrey History Centre - National Archives record
- Cawarden's monument at St. Mary's Bletchingley
- Place Farm Bletchingley home of Anne of Cleves and Thomas Carwarden.
- Chambers, E.K. Notes on the History of the Revels Office Under the Tudors. London, A. H. Bullen, 1906.
- Cunningham, Peter, Extracts from the accounts of revels at court, Malone Society (1842)
- Feuillerat, Albert, Documents Relating to the Office of the Revels, Louvain (1914).