A retired Church of England priest found guilty of a catalogue of historic sex attacks on young children at a Barnardo's home has been jailed for 10 years.

Canon Gordon Rideout, 74, abused more than a dozen girls and boys at the now closed home at Ifield Hall in Crawley, West Sussex, over a four-year period.

The former Anglican clergyman also indecently assaulted two girls at an Army site in Middle Wallop, Hampshire, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said.

At Lewes Crown Court, Rideout was found guilty of 34 counts of indecent assault and two counts of attempted rape on 16 children between January 1962 and January 1973.

He was cleared of one count of indecent assault on a boy at a second Barnardo's home in Essex.

As he was sentenced today, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said Rideout had caused ''immeasurable and destructive suffering'' over a long period of time.

Most of the charges he was convicted of related to his time as an assistant curate at St Mary's Church in Crawley when he would visit a Barnardo's children's home in the county.

Prosecutor Philip Bennetts QC told the jury that Rideout would visit the home and ''it would appear from the evidence that he would wander the house and indeed the grounds unaccompanied, and he would visit children when they were sick and alone in bed''.

One of his victims recalled Rideout visiting the dormitories at night, put his hands under the covers and ''fondle around''.

Mr Bennetts said: ''It was on a regular basis when he came to stay, maybe once, twice, three times a week sometimes.''

Rideout's victims did not complain at the time for fear of not being believed.

Jurors heard how Rideout attempted to rape a girl who attended choir practice.

After one occasion in his flat, Rideout walked the girl back to the children's home and told her: ''This is going to be our secret.''

A month after another rape attempt in a wooded area, the girl believed she was pregnant.

When she confided the abuse to a friend who went on to tell a manager at the home, the victim was slapped across her face. At the home, Mr Bennetts said there existed a ''brutal regime where children were taught how to behave by beatings''.

One girl, who was aged around 14 or 15 at the time she was abused, was asked why she had not reported it to the authorities sooner.

She told police in interview: ''I was too scared, too scared.

''I didn't want to be beaten again, too scared. The beatings were so much worse than what that man was doing. The beatings were terrible, absolutely terrible.''

One boy asked Rideout why he was molesting him. Rideout replied: ''I've got to do it.'' When the boy went on to question him why, Rideout added: ''I like little boys.''

Another complainant said she told the married couple who ran the home that the priest was abusing them, but they responded by throwing her against a wall, breaking one of her ribs.

Rideout, of Filching Close, Polegate, East Sussex, was arrested in March last year and charged five months later following a nine-month inquiry by Sussex Police. He denied all the charges.

Barnardo's director of children's services Sam Monaghan said after the case: ''We are extremely saddened by this case and our deepest sympathies go out to those who have suffered. It has taken great courage for them to step forward and relive their experiences.

''We are glad that justice has been served and believe it is critical that abusers are held to account for their crimes, regardless of when they took place.

''We take all allegations of historical abuse extremely seriously and we will always co-operate fully with the justice system on such matters.''

Rideout is the latest figure from the scandal-hit diocese of Chichester to be convicted of historic sex crimes against children.

Earlier this month a report was published into the operation of child protection policies in the diocese two years after the former archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams ordered a visitation.

It followed a series of scandals involving clergymen within the diocese which has led to several being arrested, charged and convicted for historic sex crimes against children.

The report's publication prompted a renewed apology from the current Archbishop, Dr Justin Welby, who said the Anglican church can never ignore the ''hurt and damage'' of victims who should ''never have been let down'' by people who should have been trusted.

Investigations into Rideout began after police were handed a confidential report by Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss in May 2011 raising concerns about his conduct in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Another priest referred to in the report, Robert Coles, 71, of Eastbourne, was jailed for eight years in February for sex offences against young boys. His offending was not linked to Rideout.

Following the case, the Bishop of Chichester, Dr Martin Warner, said: ''Our primary concern today is with the people who have had to live for a very long time with the consequences of the shameful abuse they suffered from Gordon Rideout.

''We should pay tribute to those who, at considerable personal and emotional cost, have been able to come forward, to provide evidence, and to substantiate accusations as witnesses in the trial which has led to a guilty verdict.

''Gordon Rideout has been the cause of immeasurable and destructive suffering over a long period of time. He has also betrayed the trust and respect of many who have valued his ministry. Today's verdict will have repercussions in many different ways across Sussex and beyond.

''The Diocesan Safeguarding Adviser, Colin Perkins, and his team have continued their close working relationship with the police throughout this investigations. On behalf of the Diocese of Chichester I would like to put on record our gratitude to them and all those involved in this case.

''But we are left with the question of why it has taken so long for these grave accusations to be taken seriously and brought to trial.

"What lessons do we all have to learn from this terrible catalogue of abuse about the strength and effectiveness of our communication within and between agencies that have responsibility for the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults?

''In the diocese of Chichester we shall continue to interrogate those procedures and to do our very best to ensure that we deliver the quality and standard that others expect of us.''

Some of Rideout's victims decided not to complain about the abuse he inflicted upon them because of the beatings they would receive for speaking out.

Nigel Pilkington, head of the CPS South East Complex Casework Unit, said: ''As an assistant curate and then chaplain, Gordon Rideout was in a position of trust, which he systemically abused, indecently assaulting the vulnerable youngsters that he met over a number of years.

''He was able to wander through Ifield Hall and the gardens, even visiting children when they were sick and alone in bed. One victim recalled how the children would hide under their covers when he came into their dormitories.

''A number of his victims attempted to speak out about what Rideout was doing, but tragically at the time of the offences, a child's word was not believed.

''Those who were brave enough to say anything were subjected to brutal beatings. Some of his victims told police in interviews that it simply 'wasn't worth complaining' because of the punishment they would receive in return.

''Instead the victims hid what happened to them for many years and none of us can begin to imagine the impact that has had on their lives.

"I would like to pay tribute to the bravery and the fortitude of the victims in coming forward to give evidence.

''Those who heard the evidence they gave at court will have realised how difficult this has been for them. They may not have been believed as children, but today they finally have been. I hope that helps to give them closure.

''I would like to thank Barnardo's for the role they played in helping to bring this case to trial.''

Chief Crown Prosecutor for CPS South East, Roger Coe-Salazar, said: ''This case is an example of how the CPS successfully prosecutes cases of child sexual abuse and should serve as a warning to those who think they can abuse children with impunity.

''We are exceptionally mindful of how difficult it can be for victims to step forward and place their trust in the authorities many years later, but I hope this case illustrates the support and understanding they will receive from the prosecutors and the police when they do.''

Police said none of the charges Rideout faced related to claims of recent or current offending, and there is no suggestion that any children are currently at risk.

Detective Chief Inspector Jon Gross, of Sussex Police, said: ''It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this verdict for those who have finally seen justice, many decades after being prey to the sexual abuse perpetrated by Gordon Rideout.

''His offending over that period has been hugely impactive upon the lives of his victims, from childhood to the present day.

''It is hoped this case will bring a sense of closure to all of those who provided evidence to the investigation while underlining to the wider community that it is never too late to report serious crimes, however long ago the alleged offending took place.

''In carrying out this investigation we also received full co-operation from the Diocese of Chichester and Barnardo's Homes.''