In Henry VII's time the Master of the Revels seems to have been a minor official of the household. In Henry VIII's court, however, the post became more important, and an officer of the Wardrobe was permanently employed to act under the Master of the Revels. With the patent given to John Farlyon in 1534 as Yeoman of the Revels, what may be considered as an independent office of the Revels (within the general sphere of the Lord Chamberlain) came into being; and in 1544 Sir Thomas Cawarden received a patent as Master of the Revels, he being the first to become head of an independent office. Soon after his appointment, the 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.
Sir Thomas Benger succeeded Cawarden, and Edmund Tylney followed him (1579–1610); it was the appointment of the latter's nephew, Sir George Buck, as deputy-master, with the reversion to the mastership, which led to so much repining on the part of the dramatist, John Lyly, who was himself a candidate. Under Tylney, the functions of Master of the Revels gradually became extended to a general censorship of the stage, which in 1624 was put directly in the hands of the Lord Chamberlain, thus leading to the licensing act of 1737.
For the study of English Renaissance theatre, the Accounts of the Revels Office provide one of the two crucial sources of reliable and specific information from the Tudor and Stuart eras (the other being the Register of the Stationers Company). The Revels Accounts provide scholars with facts, dates, and other data available nowhere else.
Tilney went on the note that the Office also provided a house for the Master and his family, and other residences for some of the office's personnel, if specified in the "patents" of their positions.
In the year of the Tilney document, the Revels Office had moved to the Whitefriars district outside the western city wall of London, though throughout its history it was located in several other places about the city, including the Blackfriars district.
Accourding to Thomas Blount in his 1656 dictionary "Glossographia", the origin of the word "Revels" is the French word "reveiller", to wake from sleep. He goes on to define "Revels" as: