MUSIC group Williams is opening three new stores across the UK as part of a £200,000 expansion of the Darlington-based company.

The musical instrument retailer is opening outlets in Nottingham, Harrogate and London during November, bringing its total number of stores to 15.

The historic company, one of the three oldest musical instrument retailers in the UK, will create eight new jobs bringing the group's total number of employees to 100.

The new stores include a piano boutique in Harrogate, a harpsichord supplier in London and an outlet in a shopping centre in Nottingham.

Williams managing director Ken Campling - a great-grandson of the founder of the business, George Williams - said: "We have been looking for the right sites in Nottingham and Harrogate for some time now but it has been worth waiting as both these premises are ideally situated for us."

The London harpsichord shop is to open near Williams' existing recorder shop. Catering for professional and amateur early music enthusiasts, it will stock harpsichords costing from £3,000 up to £35,000 from the world's leading manufacturers.

Williams Music Group already operates around the country including in Darlington, Gateshead's Metrocentre, Brighton, Stratford, Exeter as well as a number of outlets in Yorkshire.

All stores now have Big Rock departments - specialist sections that cater for rock groups - which have helped push group sales to £10m.

Mr Campling said: "The company is expanding to meet demand right across the board, from our mail order early music business to our Big Rock departments, and we are confident that all three new stores will play an important part in the group's future success."

The family firm was founded nearly a century ago by George Williams, who started off selling pianos from the back of a horse and cart.

Since then the business has been handed down through the family and has attracted a host of high-profile customers including former England manager Terry Venables and pop star Gareth Gates.

"It is wonderful the business has lasted this long," Mr Campling said. "There is a real musical tradition in this family but we don't let that get in the way of our business sense."