The parish of Gjerpen was established as a municipality January 1, 1838 (see formannskapsdistrikt). According to the 1835 census the municipality had a population of 4,381. Gjerpen was located east of the city of Skien. It encompassed districts such as Borgestad, Bøle, Gulset and Luksefjell. On 1 July 1916 an area with roughly 1,332 inhabitants was moved to Skien, and on 1 July 1920 an area with 437 inhabitants was moved to Porsgrunn.
On 1 January 1964 the rest of Gjerpen was incorporated into Skien, along with Solum and the district Valebø. Prior to the merger Gjerpen had a population of 15,300. The current district of Gjerpen constitute only a small part of the former Gjerpen municipality.
The municipality (originally the parish) is named after the farm Gjerpen (Old Norse Gerpin, from *Garpvin), since the first church was built there. The meaning of the first element is unknown, the last element is vin f 'meadow'.
Gjerpen Church is one of the oldest churches in Norway, dating from around the year 1150. Vidkun Quisling was buried in the Gjerpen cemetery.
Fossum Ironworks, which was in operation from 1539 from 1869, was last owned by the Løvenskiold family. Løvenskiold Holding still owns and operates the large forest estate which formerly belonged to the Fossum Ironworks and is one of the county's largest forest owners.
- Dag Jukvam / Statistics Norway (1999). "Historisk oversikt over endringer i kommune- og fylkesinndelingen" (PDF).
- Registreringssentral for historiske data. "Hjemmehørende folkemengde Telemark 1801-1960" (in Norwegian). University of Tromsø.
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