A retired vicar from Hook has told a court that children often sat on his lap in Sunday school and on other church occasions.

But 74-year-old Brian Spence, of Nursery Close, denies his actions amounted to nine counts of indecently assaulting four girls aged under 16.

All the offences are alleged to have taken place between 1995 and November 1999 when he was vicar of St John the Baptist Church in Crowthorne.

Spence, who was more recently priest-in-charge at St Mark’s Church in Englefield before he retired, entered the witness box at Reading Crown Court on Tuesday (May27).

He was asked about an incident in 1995 when there were three weddings during an afternoon. He has been accused of sexually assaulting a girl in the Crowthorne church in between two of the ceremonies. Spence said he had no recollection of being asked to look after the girl between the two weddings and said it was unlikely he would have been alone in the church if there were three weddings in an afternoon.

When asked if he had put his hand into her knickers and touched her, he said “no”.

Spence said he had no recollection of driving another girl to a confirmation training weekend in Old Alresford and denied touching her leg or pushing her on to a table and lying on her.

He was also asked about an incident involving a girl from another church in Wokingham who attended a confirmation training weekend at Old Alresford. She said she sat on his knee in a group discussion and while she was sitting on his knee he had touched her on the area of her groin. But Spence said he had no recollection of the girl.

The jury heard that Spence retired completely in 2012 when he moved with his wife to a small church-owned bungalow in Hook.

When he moved he had to get rid of large quantities of paperwork and diaries because there was no space in his new home.

The trial continues.