The first settlement of Groot Wetsinge dates from the 3rd century BC. Several artifacts were discovered in the wierde, including an earthenware lamp from the 1st century. Groot Wetsinge is a rather confusing name, since there are fewer houses there than in Klein Wetsinge. Groot means ‘high’ in this context, because Wetsinge is built on a wierde; a wierde is a mound, or artificial hill that was created to provide safe ground before there were dikes to protect the land from flooding. The wierde in Wetsinge is part of a cluster of wierden situated on the eastern banks of the Hunze river. Another good example of a wierde is the Schellingheheert, just up the road near Winsum.
The simple single-nave church was originally built in the 11th or 12th century, judging from the type of tuff it is made of and the way the stones were used. The church may possibly have had a wooden predecessor but there is no evidence of this.
The Wetsinger parish and church are first recorded in the parish registers of the diocesen archives of Münster under the names ‘Werschum’, ‘Wessinge’ and ‘Wetsinge’. The name of the church’s patron saint is unknown.
Between 1616 and 1630 (before the old tower was demolished) a new tower was built on the west side of the church, where the old tuff stone chancel had been replaced by a brick one. A buttress was added to the southern wall at a later date.
The map made by Joannes Baptista van Regemortes shows a freestanding Gothic bell tower that was probably built south of the church in the 13th or 14th century. The tower was demolished shortly after 1645. Since it had been built on sturdy clay without a foundation there were never any traces found of this tower.
At the beginning of the 19th century the church falls to rack and ruin and in 1840 it is demolished, along with the church in the neighbouring town of Sauwerd. Architect P.M. Kruizinga designs a new church which is erected that very same year, exactly between Sauwerd and Groot Wetsinge on the ‘Molenstreek’. This spot popularly became known as ‘Klein Wetsinge’. When it received its own town-name sign it became official.
Thanks to the dedication and perseverance of Klein Wetsinge’s local committee the clock was restored to its former glory and reinstated in the bell tower. Now the tower clock strikes the hour at 12 noon and again at 4 o’clock, as it did in days gone by telling the farmhands that it was time for a break or time to go home.
The Stichting Oude Groninger Kerken takes on the restoration of the church in order to align it more effectively with its goals: bringing together land, landscape and food.
On June 26 the Stichting Oude Groninger Kerken puts management of the church in the capable hands of Nicolaas and Inez Geenen.