Thomas Cawarden was the son of William Cawarden, his birth is unrecorded but in 1528 he was noted as being an apprentice to Owen Hawkins, a mercer based in London. In 1542 Cawarden married, the only thing known about his wife is that her first name was Elizabeth, the couple had no known children.
In 1540 Cawarden was appointed Keeper of Bletchingley manor. In the same year as marrying Elizabeth, Cawarden was also elected as a Member of Parliament for Bletchingley a position he would hold again in 1547. Bletchingley was so small it did not even hold the status of town.
In 1544 Cawarden received a patent as Master of Revels and Tents, a position that was relatively minor until King Henry VIII when the role became important. Cawarden was the first to become head of an independent office and was also knighted in the same year at Boulogne. Soon after Cawarden was appointed the office and stores were moved to a dissolved Dominican monastery at Blackfriars. As part of his position he was responsible for overseeing royal festivities, progresses and military expeditions.
In 1547 Cawarden and his office provided hales, roundhouses and a kitchen tent for a military expedition to Scotland during the war of the Rough Wooing. Upon the return home Cawarden paid for the tents to be dried and put away after they were soaked during travel.
During the reign of Queen Mary I she ordered officers to collect arms and armour from Cawarden’s home in order to protect to city from Wyatt’s rebellion. Also during Mary’s reign Cawarden was implicated in a plot to replace Mary with Elizabeth. Evidence given implicated Cawarden and others in which he was allegedly require to intercept any treasure sent by Queen Mary to her husband in Spain. In May 1556 Cawarden was given a bond ordering him to remain in his home at Blackfriars, just two months later the order was rescinded.
His patent also allowed Cawarden to keep 40 armed and liveried servants at Bletchingley Castle, during his time in office Cawarden lived at Loseley Park near Guildford, which is where his official papers were preserved.
Many honours came to Cawarden in his life including in 1543 he was appointed as Keeper of the house and gardens of Nonsuch Palace until 1556, in 1547 Cawarden was appointed as High Sheriff of Surrey and Sussex, in 1550 as Keeper of Hampton Court and in 1558 he was the joint Lieutenant of the Tower of London, sharing the position with Sir Edward Warner. Between 1547 and 1559 he was elected as knight of the shire for Surrey on four occasions.
In 1547 Cawarden obtained the former home of Anne of Cleves, Bletchingley a Tudor home that was gifted to the former Queen as part of her divorce settlement with King Henry VIII. In 1551 Cawarden began work on a banqueting house in Hyde Park, London with Lawrence Bradshaw who was a surveyor of works but by 1556 this was supplanted by his banqueting house at Nonsuch Park.
Cawarden died on 25th August 1559 at East Horsley, his body was taken to Bletchingley for burial.